LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Along the Bellagio fountains, the sun is beaming down on tourists who were once shaded by trees as tall as the nearby pedestrian bridges over Las Vegas Boulevard.
Over 40 trees were chopped down to make way for racing grandstands overnight Wednesday.
Despite concerns that the covered circles along the sidewalk will likely not see trees replanted within them – even after the race – preserving them, instead, could have been a complicated task all its own.
That’s according to Board Certified Master Arborist Joe Noriega, who said removing to preserve, rather than chopping up and grinding down, is not typically what he recommends to his clients.
“If the roots have gotten into the underground utilities or pipes, now we run the risk of damage,” Noriega said outside a central valley home where he and seven other tree workers removed branches damaged by recent storms. “You’re talking about a crane. You’re talking about extensive digging.”
Mr. Tree Service, where Noriega is the general manager, can quote medium-large tree removals as low as $500 up to three times that for one tree. Bellagio cut and ground down over 40.
As for those trees surviving until replanted, Noriega says that’s unlikely due to Nevada’s dry soil.
“You’re damaging the roots by cutting them on all sides, and then to put them into a container of some sort, keep it hydrated, alive long enough until they can be replanted: it just creates some significant problems, just with the viability for keeping it alive.,” Noriega said. “Whereas, they can go to a nursery, purchase one that’s already been container grown, and the survivability is going to be very high.”
The long-standing trees also got the axe to improve pedestrian safety, mobility, and visibility, according to an MGM Resorts representative to 8 News Now.
Those trees are now headed to valley parks as wood chips.
“(Wood chips) cools the soil, it retains moisture and it also adds organic matter back into the soil,” Noriega said. “Nevada’s soil is lacking in organics, so any organic material helps the fertility and viability of the soil.”
While MGM confirms that around 12 trees closest to the fountain will eventually be removed and stored until after the race for replanting, tourists and conservation groups alike feel shaded by the decision.
“You’re already in the jungle of towers and cement and everything else industrial,” Sara Elder who was visiting Las Vegas said. “Have some naturalism.”
“I think we’re sweating,” Monica Titley who was visiting Las Vegas said amid 100-degree temperatures. “The shade would be nice, you know?”
One of the oldest Conservation nonprofits in America, American Forests, said in a statement to 8 News Now:
“Trees provide vital resources to humans, such as clean air, and water, while also helping to cool temperatures. In urban areas like Las Vegas, where temperatures continue to rise year over year, there’s a real concern with removing existing trees along the Las Vegas Strip where dense buildings and streets radiate significant heat all day and night. In fact, American Forests’ Tree Equity Score tool shows how almost 140,000 trees are actually needed in the Paradise area to achieve true Tree Equity. Urban forests and trees are vital for mitigating the effects of heat, and stemming flooding and air pollution, and this is true for cities across the country feeling these effects daily. Now is not the time to be removing trees, but rather planting more trees in order to get closer to true Tree Equity.”
A petition is additionally circulating change.org to prevent future tree-cutting on MGM properties.
The MGM representative confirms to 8 News Now that they do not have plans for any further “major landscaping projects” because of Formula One structures or events.
There have been examples of beloved public trees being removed and replanted, such as 10 cherry trees in Nashville Tennesse for the 2019 NFL Draft.
However, that amount was roughly four times less than how many were removed along the iconic Las Vegas attraction.