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China Grove businesses petition town government for sidewalk trees

CHINA GROVE — Hoping to bring back trees along downtown streets, local business owners on Tuesday delivered a petition to town officials.

The petition calls for the town to ask an arborist what type of tree would be best for downtown sidewalks, said Board of Trade President Brent Engelhardt.

A total of 19 downtown China Grove businesses and 20 local residents signed the petition, Engelhardt said. He delivered the petition to China Grove Town Council members before the start of Tuesday’s meeting.

Engelhardt, who runs Old Town Soap Co. with his wife, Beth, said the trees would help soften the image of downtown China Grove. He said the trees would start near the F&M Bank ATM on Main Street and end before the parking lot for the Family House restaurant.

At one point, downtown sidewalks were lined with a number of crape myrtles, but they negatively affected downtown businesses, said Town Manager Ken Deal. Business owners complained that customers tracked leaves from the trees into their businesses, Deal said.

Mayor Lee Withers said the trees were not property maintained.

Deal said he’s been told by some business owners that they would prefer a tree that’s not intrusive and doesn’t block the view of their store.

After getting the petition, town officials will begin researching what tree is best.

“We are hoping to get an arborist to come in and tell us what’s the right tree for the job,” Engelhardt said.

The cost is not yet clear, but Withers said he’s among the people who support adding trees along downtown sidewalks.

“We need to have the right tree, the budget that would take care of it and the spacing to be perfect,” he said. “There’s a happy medium between having 40 something trees, which we had before, and pots or planters.”

Adding trees and beautifying the downtown streetscape would make China Grove more inviting for pedestrians and shoppers, he said.

“We wouldn’t see every progressive community doing it if it wasn’t a good idea,” he said.

Contact Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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