- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

PERU, Ind. (AP) - Some residents of a northern Indiana city are worried that a planned bridge rehab project will mean the loss of some sycamore trees planted in the 1950s to honor World War II veterans.

More than 30 of the white-barked trees line Business U.S. 31 just south of the Wabash River in Peru.

Resident Julene Bowen said the trees are a unique tribute to the service of war veterans such as her father.

“I think the sycamores are a great memorial to veterans like him. It’s something living. You can always put up stone memorials, but it’s not quite the same as this,” she told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1bLEyYr ).

Miami County Engineer Ken Einselen said it isn’t clear how many trees will have to be cut down for the overhaul of the bridge over a small creek in the midst of the sycamores. He says that work is expected to be done next year in the community about 60 miles south of South Bend.

Bowen’s 86-year-old mother, Grace, said she’d also be sad to see the trees go, since she remembers when they were first planted by a local garden club.

“Watching the sycamores grow from thin samplings to big, beautiful trees has been pretty amazing,” she said. “But sycamores don’t last forever. They could replant some if they cut them down.”

County officials avoided the prospect of having to cut down about a half dozen of the trees when they limited a repaving project to the current roadway by using only local funding, Einselen said. If they had used federal money for the project, they would’ve been required to widen the roadway and pave its shoulders.

County Commissioner Larry West said the sycamore trees do more than provide a beautiful entryway to the community.

“Certainly they have a lot historical meaning to people in this county,” he said. “We didn’t want to see the trees taken out if it could be avoided.”

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com

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