Yesterday Austin's second most historic and iconic tree -- next to Treaty Oak- was designated for removal by Austin Park's Director Kimberly McNeeley. The historic Barton Springs Leaning Tree is set to be killed this Thursday!
Please read below and then email Mayor Watson, key councilmembers, and the Parks Board immediately and demand that no action be taken until after a public hearing at the next Parks Board meeting set for Monday, September 25th.
Cut and paste the email addresses below into your "to" box.
Please tell council and the Parks Board there is no emergency to justify this rush to judgment. Tell them to reverse the decision to kill Flo until after a public hearing as promised at the last Parks Board meeting.
Sadly, Parks Department leadership has once again misled the community. This time the consequences could be immediate and irreversible without action by "we the people." Please help today and more this week if we do not hear back that this terrible decision has been reversed by Monday afternoon. Regardless, plan to attend the Monday, September 25th Parks Board meeting set for City Hall at 6:00 p.m.
Photographs from the 1920s show Flo as a significant tree shading Barton Springs pool. To our knowledge there is no record that Flo has hurt a single Barton Springs visitor over the last 120 years. Not one. Ever. Yet, somehow, there is now an emergency to remove this "dangerous" tree this week.
It's simply not true; removing the tree without a public hearing would be irresponsible, and the late Friday announcement on the City's website that the tree "must be removed" violates Parks Director McNeeley's statement to the Parks Board that no decisions would be made before the public had an opportunity to provide informed public input to the department and the board.
There is no dispute that Flo' has multiple infirmities. The City and SOS now have at least five expert arborist reports confirming the tree has severe challenges. The City's expert reports were posted here late yesterday and the SOS commissioned report is linked below.
But Flo was in real bad shape all the way back to 1958 when the city placed a mass of concrete and rebar into her hollowed out core and installed the first support pole under the leaning tree. Sixty-five years later she lives on.
Then City experts then wanted to remove Flo in 2009 in a proposed massacre of 21 of the heritage pecan and other Barton Springs trees. This was part of the woefully misguided "Barton Springs Master Plan" that envisioned a "fresh canvas" for contracted landscape architects to paint a brand new, very expensive and heavily constructed "architectural masterpiece" around Barton Springs. It would have been great for private events! Sound familiar?
It was only public outrage in 2009 that saved 19 of the 21 condemned Barton Springs trees (and erased most of the proposed new construction.) For Flo, PARD expanded the 1950's support system with a metal support frame that now, 14 years later, cradles the still green and alive Leaning Tree.
It's now, once again, time for some basic common sense. To the untrained but loving eyes of many Barton Springs regulars it appears that it is literally impossible for Flo to fall on top of anyone. Or to even fall at all. The tree rests on the ground, then a concrete retaining wall, and then the three-posted cradle that spans the underlying sidewalk. Flo could live and continue slowly dying in hospice care for years, maybe even decades, without posing any threat to anyone.
The City's arborist experts have somehow overlooked the obvious. This is not a tree standing up, it is a tree laying down and fully supported. Perhaps a structural engineer would advise some limited improvements to the cradle, but this would be something small, if needed at all, and be cheaper than killing and removing the tree. In other words, this is a question for engineers not arborists.
Austin Beautiful Trees arborist Scott George recommends in his report prepared for SOS that a mechanical engineer or biophysicist be consulted to assess the tree and its support system. George recommends this action after first acknowledging -- unlike the other arborists consulted by the city -- that Flo's circumstances are so unique that they are outside his considerable expertise as an arborist.
The arborists do agree that the one large limb that extends beyond the metal support frame out over the pool should be supported with a cable system and that it could be trimmed to reduce load and exposure to wind. This part is standard tree care and PARD has already installed a temporary rope system that prevents this large limb from falling into the pool.
As Flo leans today she is lush and green with a few small brown spots typical to all mature pecans, especially this summer. No one knows how much longer she will live. Some pecan trees live for 200 to 300 years.
There is certainly no emergency, no threat to the public, and no reason to not do what was promised: refrain from making any decisions until after a public hearing.
Please send your email today to these addressees and urge your friends and family to do the same. If you don't already have plans, go jump in Barton Springs and see our beloved Leaning Tree for yourself. Without your help and some common sense at city hall, it may be your last chance.
Thank you for caring and helping out. Together we saved most of Zilker Park last month; now let's save this special part of Austin and Barton Springs.