The slumping soil in Merle Peoples' and Jonathan Parsons' West Toledo back yard has been fixed.
The Northwood Avenue residents, who watched last spring as cracks opened up in their elaborate garden of brick pavers, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental trees after a state contractor begin digging out an I-475 embankment next to their property, said last week they're satisfied with the work the E.S. Wagner Co. has done to repair the damage.
Especially pleasing to Mr. Peoples and Mr. Parsons is the effort Wagner crews made to transplant many of the trees that had been within the Ohio Department of Transportation's right of way to a vacant city-owned plot along nearby Sherbrooke Road, where they're less likely to be harmed by any future construction projects.
Wagner has "gone out of their way to minimize our upset," Mr. Parsons said, giving the company credit for going beyond what the transportation department considered necessary for the restoration effort.
"What's surprising is how quickly it got done," Mr. Peoples said -- just a few days to do most of the work once it got started.
Nonetheless, Mr. Peoples and Mr. Parsons, whose garden won the Toledo Botanical Garden's Community Garden competition in 2007, say the whole matter has been sour enough for them that they're moving -- to Wood County.
"It's an experience I don't care to repeat," Mr. Peoples said, to which Mr. Parsons added, "We've dealt with an awful lot of amorality on the part of the bureaucracy."
They chafed in particular at a transportation department official's characterization of the gardening they had done within the state's right of way.
"ODOT believes we have treated you fairly through a compensation payment of $40,000 and the contractor has also agreed to move and replant some of the trees to another part of the property even though a large portion of the garden is actually encroaching on the existing right of way," H. Frederick Weiss, a realty specialist manager at the department's office in Bowling Green, wrote in a recent email to the two men.
"We started this in collaboration with ODOT, on a friendly basis" and now it's 'an encroachment'," Mr. Parsons said. He and Mr. Peoples also questioned the $40,000 as damage "compensation," stating they understood that money to be a lease payment for access to their property to repair the right-of-way land.
Ground immediately behind the noise wall atop an embankment along westbound I-475 near Sherbrooke began sinking during the spring of 2011 after Wagner crews dug out part of the embankment to build a retaining wall for the freeway widening.
Work on that part of the I-475 project was halted for months before additional steel sheet piles were driven into the ground to stabilize the embankment. The retaining wall was finished this summer.
Mr. Peoples said he doesn't plan to replant many, if any, of the small trees still in temporary pots on the land between the noise wall and the right-of-way line. He expects that area to be seeded with grass.
Although Mr. Peoples and Mr. Parsons are leaving, the house and its garden will stay in friendly hands: they're leasing to Gary Miller, a friend who helped them create the garden. Several neighbors have also offered to help maintain the part along Sherbrooke, they said.
"I'm pleased with what they [Wagner] were able to salvage," Mr. Miller said Thursday. "I understand they couldn't save everything, but they were very kind with what they did."
The $64 million I-475 reconstruction project between I-75 and Rushland Avenue entered its third year last month. Theresa Pollick, an ODOT spokesman in Bowling Green, said traffic is likely to be shifted from the left lanes onto the rebuilt and widened right lanes in each direction this month. The project is to be completed late next year.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.