Path plan would remove rhododendrons in Florence

FLORENCE, Ore. - Florence is known for its rhododendrons, but a proposed pathway may mean some of the plants need to go.

Concerned residents say no.

The city says yes.

The goal is to improve safety and access along this busy stretch of road, where there is minimal shoulder, no bike lane and no sidewalk.

The 1.6 mile stretch of Rhododendron Drive has been in design-mode since the mid 1990s.

"If you drive out Rhododendron Drive, you'll find it's a pretty narrow street," said Larry Patterson, the interim city manager. "So what we're looking at is a multi-use path that would separate bikes and pedestrians off the roadway."

Patterson said the project - funded by more than a million dollars worth of state and federal grants - includes a 10-foot wide multi-use pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists.

But adding this means removing hundreds of rhododendrons and pines.

Nearby residents in the Greentrees community say revegetation after construction isn't enough.

"First plan was to have bike paths and a sidewalk. Perfect!" said George Lyiddon. "That's morphed into a 10-foot wide, plus easements. That's going to destroy all this vegetation."

The city is expecting such a large turnout at a public meeting Monday they've moved the 7 o'clock meeting to the Florence Events Center.