KDOT to spare colorful maple from razing

For now, the tree stays.

State highway officials on Monday said they wouldn’t bulldoze a 100-year-old maple on the edge of property that’s to be cleared and sloped when crews begin widening west Sixth Street in 2004.

“Our intent is to save the tree,” said Bob Wandel, a Kansas Department of Transportation engineer overseeing the project.

Three weeks ago, Bill and Darlene Naff, both 71, asked KDOT to spare the tree, noting that it’s well known for dazzling passersby with its fall colors.

The tree  it’s as tall as a five-story building  is one of many mature trees in the Naff’s front yard on the south side of Sixth Street, about a quarter-mile west of the Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive intersection.

“I’m glad they’re going to try to save it,” Bill Naff said. “That’s really all I can ask for. We’re satisfied.”

The Naffs, who bought their hilltop home in 1984, expect to lose about 40 trees to the project.

Though the picturesque maple stands about 60 feet from where the new roadway will be, it’s within the area that’s to be sloped in accordance with KDOT regulations.

Wandel said the sloping is expected to cut into about half the roots on the tree’s north side.

“We’ll try to save it, but this comes with no guarantees,” Wandel said. “We’ll give it a chance, but whether it works, well, we just have to see. There will be some damage.”

KDOT plans to expand Sixth Street to four lanes plus a median west of Wakarusa Drive to Kansas Highway 10. Bids on the project are to be let in July 2004.

The project includes eliminating much of the incline west of Wakarusa Drive by lowering the present roadbed by 15 feet.

Today, the tree isn’t much to look at, Naff said.

“It’s not been a good year,” he said. “The drought really took its toll  as soon as it got cold, it lost most of its leaves. Right now, it looks sort of naked, but it’ll be pretty again. This year is the exception.”