A Houston police officer kept the peace Monday as neighborhood activists butted heads with workers removing a century-old tree from the corner of Oxford and 23rd Street in the Heights.
While not exactly the Battle in Seattle or Occupy Wall Street, the mini-protest had drawn at least two news vans when CultureMap arrived the scene. A lone protestor held court as a crew of six took down limbs from what area residents say is one of the tallest sycamores in Harris County, measuring more than 100 feet tall.
"We understand that this part of Houston is very popular and that not all the old homes can be saved," activist Mary Edgerton explained as she took pictures of the quickly-thinning tree with her iPhone. "But we can save the trees."
Edward Goerig — whose Period Construction company acquired the Heights lot in 2012 — told the Chronicle that the historic sycamore was seriously damaged during Hurricane Ike only to take a further beating from the region's ongoing drought conditions.
"The fact that this tree survived both Hurricane Ike and the drought is a testament to its innate strength."
Goerig says he spoke with two tree experts who warned about the sycamore's unstable branches, leaving him with no other option than to chop down the natural landmark.
But after construction crews accidently toppled an acre of forest in Woodland Park last week, Heights area residents are on high alert when it comes to their trees. Those living near the sycamore launched a petition through change.org to help raise awareness of the situation.
"The fact that this tree survived both Hurricane Ike and the drought is a testament to its innate strength," Edgerton says. "I would like to see the assessment made by the developer's tree surgeons."
While Edgerton feels that too much of the tree's canopy has been already removed to save it at this point, she remains hopeful that the protest will push the City of Houston to examine how large shade trees can be preserved.
Her fellow activists, she says, have contacted council member Ellen Cohen to suggest that the City hire its own objective tree expert to mediate between developers and the neighborhoods in which they build.