By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
They were droopy, dried out and dying. Now, they’re gone.
The once silky green palm trees that adorned Sea Isle City’s main entryway during summer but turned brown and crusty as they began dying out in the harshness of winter have been cut down.
Freshly cut stumps and a few wilted palm fronds scattered on the ground are the only remnants now of the 40 trees that lined the John F. Kennedy Boulevard corridor.
The final blow was the colossal coastal storm on Jan. 3 that dumped a foot of snow on Sea Isle and left the palms smothered in an icy, white coating.
Sea Isle officials are considering their options for replacing the palms, but no decisions have been made yet, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said in December.
Crepe myrtles and sycamores are among the trees being considered because each has a history of doing well on the barrier island, she noted.
“The crepe myrtles bloom flowers in the summer and come in a variety of color options, and the sycamores are stately trees that are very popular as well,” Custer said. “We want to plant trees that not only will be able to sustain themselves in our seashore environment, but also will be attractive because we want a welcoming entrance corridor to our community.”
Mayor Leonard Desiderio made it clear when the palm trees were planted just before the Memorial Day weekend that they were only a temporary way to dress up the JFK Boulevard gateway and likely would not survive the winter.
“We know these won’t be permanent and we know we’ll need to do something else when winter comes, but we thought this would be a nice touch; and we think it’ll look great when you come over the bridge,” he said then of the impression the palm trees would make on visitors to Sea Isle.
The city spent $8,000 to buy the 40 palm trees from a Florida grower. With their vibrant green fronds swaying in the breezes during the summer, they created a tropical-like setting reminiscent of Florida or the Caribbean islands.
The palms replaced maple and magnolia trees that fared poorly in the shore’s salty and windy environment. Many of the trident maples and sweetbay magnolias that previously lined JFK Boulevard died off or were reduced to scraggly, leafless skeletons – hardly leaving a good first impression on visitors arriving in Sea Isle.
The city consulted with several landscaping experts and was told that the wide-open, east-west corridor makes it especially difficult for many species of street trees to survive in the shore environment.