RANCHO CUCAMONGA - City workers have started removing trees and turf as part of conservation efforts along Haven Avenue medians.

Workers are expected to remove 192 magnolia trees along the median, many that have been suffering from wilt disease, and 71,933 square feet of grass in the medians from Hillside Road to Fourth Street.

Work on the first phase of the project, between Church Street and Foothill Boulevard, is expected to finish Friday.

The effort will save on costs, bolster water conservation, eliminate lane closures for maintenance, and investigate whether the plan is viable for other areas in the city.

"We've been forced to look at ways we can conserve our precious resources," Mayor Dennis Michael said.

"I know some people are concerned about eliminating trees but the trees are starved and are having problems themselves. Many of the magnolia trees will remain and the benefit is reduced cost to the taxpayer. It's still going to be just as beautiful."

Some of the healthy trees removed in the first phase will be planted elsewhere in the city.

Replacement trees that consume less water will be planted to help preserve the feel of the existing landscape design, officials said.

More than 300 magnolia trees and 85 Canary Island date palm trees will remain along Haven.

The remainder of the Haven project will be completed by mid-2013, officials said.

The first phase aims to show city residents what the rest of the project will look like, Public Works Director Bill Wittkopf said.

"I think we want to get through this project and make sure we have a good demonstration area so we can show what the final project will look like," Wittkopf said.

"We can use that as we move forward with other retrofit projects based on time and funding."

Officials said the median project will cost $242,110.

It will save $99,900 annually and reduce annual water consumption by as much as two million gallons.

The project will also serve as a pilot program for similar proposed landscaping overhauls on Milliken Avenue and Base Line Road.

Those projects to convert medians on Milliken and Base Line are on hold depending council direction and water costs, Wittkopf said.

Michael said the expansion of such projects would continue.

"This is the first of many retrofits yet to come," he said.

neil.nisperos@inlandnewspapers.com

909-483-9356

@RanchoNow