Monroe County officials on Thursday began trimming the Australian Pines at Higgs Beach children's park, a week after a large branch fell and brushed a small child.
The park has been closed since the incident in an abundance of caution, officials said, and won't reopen until all of the trees are trimmed. The trimming is expected to be completed by Sunday, said arborist Paul Meador, who works for the company conducting the work, Tarzan's Tree Service.
Tree trimmers are removing the heavier branches at the top of the trees. Meador will inspect the nine trees in the popular children's park to determine if they can be saved. He said the trees "are in decline," but still could live another 10 to 25 years.
"We want to save the shade as much as possible," Meador said. "We want to keep it green."
If the trees do have to be removed, the county would have to install awnings or something to shade the park and the playground equipment there, county officials said.
The pines have been at the beach park for more than 50 years, said Monroe County Public Works Director Dent Pierce, who grew up in the Florida Keys and remembers them being there when he was a child.
"We want to open this (the park) up as soon as possible," Pierce said. "We want the kids back out here having fun. But safety is the most important thing."
The tree branch that brushed the child was an estimated 12-feet long and weighed 75 pounds. The branch was completely hallow and appears to be "hollowed out from carpenter ants," said Kevin Wilson, who oversees the county's Project Management Department.
The county installed several new swings and other playground equipment in the park last year, as part of ongoing upgrades to the park that are scheduled to occurred over the next several years.