The Delaware Department of Transportation is taking pains to not be seen as the Grinch that Stole Christmas when it comes to a Christmas tree lot on Elkton Road, operated by a local Boy Scout troop. The agency has been under fire downstate for land deals and problems related to the Indian River Bridge project and does not need more negative PR.
Still, this weekend, Brookside-based Boy Scout Troop 603 is expected move its lot to a site off Marrows Road in Brookside, southeast of the city of Newark. The problem facing Scouts is a two-year construction project on Elkton Road that has made access to the lot more difficult.
“At no time have they been denied the ability to sell their trees or told they could not continue,” said Mike Williams, public relations director for DelDOT in an e- mail response.
Williams confirmed in the e-mail that the traffic pattern around the lot was switched as part of the project. The change eliminated the shoulder in front of the tree lot that was previously used for parking.
According to Williams, two suggestions were made. The first would have cars pull into the lot to load the trees and the second was to request Aetna Hose Hook & Ladder Co. (at an adjacent parcel) if their parking lot could be used.
Calling the situation a nightmare, Debra Pragg, who has been associated with Troop 603 and the tree lot for many years, said lot is not paved and that wet weather could lead to a muddy mess for tree shoppers. With the forecast calling for rain on Sunday, it was decided to move the lot to the Marrows Road site, next to a baseball field.
Pragg said the troop was given no notice about the traffic changes, adding that a new site will also be needed for next year, due to the ongoing construction. According to Pragg, Troop 603 has operated the tree lot since 1964.
The tree business has not been easy the troop, which relies on the sales as a major source of funds for its activities. Pragg said. The troop was also not included in a listing of tree lots by the state’s largest newspaper, the News Journal.
In addition to challenges that come with the current economy, the lot has seen stiff competition from artificial trees, Pragg said.
“We have our regulars,” she said, but added that numbers have dropped.
The new Boy Scout lot is also a short distance away from another longtime holiday fixture in the area, the Brookside Lions tree lot.