Advocates of a 100-year-old live oak named Mr. Elementree have until March 1 to raise about $200,000 to save it from being cut down in a planned rebuild of League City Elementary School.
After an outpouring of support to save the tree, Clear Creek Independent School District officials Wednesday approved waiting 30 days before moving ahead with its felling.
“It doesn’t impact our schedule, which is good,” said Elaina Polsen, spokeswoman for the district. “We worked out an agreement with the city to delay the demolition of that particular area to allow community groups to try to raise the private funding to move the tree.”
Rebuilding League City Elementary was one of the projects the district proposed in 2017 as part of a $487 million bond referendum.
The Clear Creek ISD board of trustees approved $46.9 million for the Fort Worth-based VLK Architects firm’s design of a new League City Elementary. The design is based on the recent McWhirter Elementary School rebuild project in Webster.
District officials in October 2017 moved students into the nearby and vacant Clear Path Alternative School building so that rebuilding could begin.
Before this week’s agreement to delay the tree’s removal, district officials had argued that the move was needed to accommodate a parking lot while several residents opposed the decision because of its historical significance.
“It’s a registered Butler live oak with a lot of historic value to League City and all of the kids at the school,” Councilman Greg Gripon said. “Many of generations of people went through League City Elementary and know and love that tree.”
Residents had feared the tree would be cut down before League City Manager John Baumgartner met with district officials recently and worked out the agreement, he said.
The tree had been set to be removed this week.
“This is a positive move,” Polsen said. “Citizens have been understandably passionate about Mr. Elementree. This gives them time and we support that.”
The city’s historical society and garden club are steering an effort to raise enough money to move the tree to another site at the elementary school, away from construction, Gripon said.
District officials estimate it should cost between $160,000 and $200,000 to move the tree, Polsen said.
“I think it’s good news,” said Leslye Mize, who was part of the group that started the League City Historical Society’s live oak registry.
Tree advocates plan to hold a candlelight vigil at some point to raise awareness of the tree and other fundraisers could be in store, Mize said.
The groups as of Thursday had raised about $1,400 to save the tree, Mize said.