Stumps, not trees, will line the streets of South Los Angeles when the space shuttle Endeavour makes its way down the 12-mile route to its new permanent home at the California Science Center. All told, 400 hundred trees will be felled to make room for the shuttle, which has a 78-foot wingspan.

The center has promised to plant twice as many trees along the parade route after the shuttle’s two-day procession in mid-October, but that’s not enough to appease some local residents who say replacing mature trees with saplings is not an even trade. They argue that young trees will decrease property values — which is not unfounded, as tree-heavy areas are often wealthier neighborhoods — as well as not provide ample shade.

Younger, actively growing trees actually produce more oxygen than more mature trees, scientists say. But mature trees absorb much more carbon dioxide than saplings, making them an important participant in the fight against air pollution.

Engineers charged with mapping a route from LAX airport to the California Science Center originally considered airlifting the shuttle to its final destination. They were forced to give up on that idea because the shuttle weighs too much for a helicopter to handle, and dismantling the shuttle was ruled out of the question because it would damage the heat sensors affixed to the body of the craft.

One shorter street route was planned along Leimert Boulevard, but residents strongly opposed it, as that route would have required removal of many trees planted in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The current plan has already gone underway, with crews chopping down pines and ficus in Inglewood. Some Inglewood officials are pleased to see the trees go, as the sidewalks will be repaired at no cost to the city and new, less problematic trees will line the streets. California Science Center officials and some community leaders also say the tree chopping is a fair price to pay to own a piece of American history.

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