You can almost hear the haunting voice of ’70s folk singer Joni Mitchell whispering through the branches of the 100-year-old oak trees in League City these days.
“They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot,” go the lyrics.
Recently, Clear Creek Independent School District got permission to cut down a 110-year-old oak tree at League City Elementary School to make way for a parking lot.
In another part of town, 18 mature oak trees must go to make room for a canal in a new waterfront subdivision, the developer said.
For many residents, the graceful oaks are a powerful symbol of what makes League City beautiful and unique.
League City is well known as the city of oak trees — gracing marketing tools as well as the hearts of residents.
Balancing progress with nature can be challenging — an issue the fast-growing community of League City is now wrestling as the population continues to grow beyond the 100,000 residents mark. Inevitably, more oak trees will fall as the growth of the community continues to put pressure on developers for more homes and businesses.
We do feel it is a shame for a 110-year old majestic oak tree to fall in the name of a school parking lot. But we also understand this is a process and discussion that needs to happen in League City in order to protect the valuable heritage of the community. This will not be the last tree to be standing in the way of pavement.
Currently Town Harbour Estates, a planned unit development, is following the city’s tree ordinance and proposes planting enough trees to make up for the old oaks it will cut down, city staff said.
The plans call to cut down about 500 inches of trees. The number comes from adding the circumferences of the trunks of the targeted trees. In accordance with the city tree ordinance, the developer will plant 630 inches of new trees.
But the new trees will be small, some only 3 inches in circumference, while many of the trees being demolished are 21 inches to 26 inches in circumference. The largest oak tree is more than 30 inches in circumference, city officials said.
Additionally, the total manner in which green space is calculated, is giving some people pause. The current ordinance counts even small strips of undeveloped ground too small for meaningful development as green space.
While this discussion may be new to our region, this is not unusual across the nation. Protecting natural features is increasingly on people’s minds. While it might be oak trees in League City, a community in North Carolina might be fighting to keep the element of tall pines along roadways.
“We have to balance between development, progress and the preservation of our history and natural environment,” Sandra Kelly, member of the city parks board, said recently.
“League City is known to be the city of oak trees. It is our identity. It is important that we readdress the tree ordinance immediately to keep this travesty from happening again.”
In the end, this is an important quality of life issue and one to be decided by local residents. We encourage everyone to be heard and share their thoughts and concerns. After all, let’s not forget Mitchell’s warning.
• Leonard Woolsey