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400 trees to be removed for space shuttle Endeavour's L.A. arrival

September 4, 2012 |  8:25 am

Space shuttle Endeavour is coming to town — which means 400 or so trees have got to go.

The shuttle's final journey from Los Angeles International Airport to its permanent home at the California Science Center in Exposition Park will cover 12 miles of Inglewood and Los Angeles streets next month.

But in order to move the five-story-tall, 78-foot-wide orbiter down city streets, power lines will be raised, traffic signals will be removed and some trees will be pruned or removed. Crews have already started trimming trees in Inglewood, chopping pine, ficus and others down to their stumps.

Inglewood will lose 128 trees, and communities in South Los Angeles about 265 trees, though the exact number has not yet been determined.

The California Science Center has agreed to replant twice as many trees along the route from the shuttle's docking place at Los Angeles International Airport to Exposition Park. But that's not enough to satisfy some tree lovers.

Many worry that the replacements — young, wiry trees that will provide little shade — will pale in comparison to the mature magnolias that line the Crenshaw corridor. Others are concerned that the bare streets will further depreciate property values.

"They are cutting down these really big, majestic trees," said Lark Galloway-Gilliam, a longtime Leimert Park resident and neighborhood council director. "It will be beyond my lifetime before they will be tall like this again."

Several alternatives for the Oct. 12 move were considered but ultimately discarded.

Taking the massive shuttle apart would have damaged the delicate tiles that acted as heat sensors. Airlifting the 170,000-pound craft was also ruled out. Not even heavy-duty helicopters could sustain that kind of weight, California Science Center president Jeffrey Rudolph said.

A freeway route was considered until engineers realized that the shuttle could not travel under overpasses.

"We had to identify a route that had no permanent infrastructures like buildings and bridges," Rudolph said.

They settled on a final route that will follow Manchester Boulevard to Crenshaw Drive, then onto Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — wide thoroughfares with few permanent obstacles.

Inglewood officials see the tree removal as a win-win. The city rids itself of some problematic trees and even gets sidewalks repaired. In total, the California Science Center is expected to spend $500,000 to improve the city's landscape.

Workers are expected to start replanting trees a few weeks after Endeavour reaches the science center.


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Photo: A landscaping crew cuts down a tree on Manchester Boulevard to clear the way for the space shuttle Endeavour when it makes its journey from Los Angeles International to its new home in Exposition Park. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times