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

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com

President & Publisher of The Galveston County Daily News.

(12) comments

Robert Braeking

Unfortunately although the removed trees can live again as furniture and artwork they will probably be sent to a landfill.

Michelle Aycoth

They should save the trunks of the larger trees and make wooden sculptures like the ones in Galveston and place in parks and public facilities. The developer should absorb the cost of doing that.

Robert Braeking

And what communist rock did you crawl out from under? You obviously have no idea of the cost of hiring the artist. I'm sure that the developer would donate a tree to YOU for YOU to pay to have it sculpted. Then YOU may donate it to the city to be displayed in a prominent place.

Jarvis Buckley

I'm sure they want be allowed to cut those trees. There should be an organized protest.✌️

Robert Braeking

That's an over reach by little people with a lot of power. Trees belong to the land owner and they should be able to do what they want with them.

Carlos Ponce

Said the fortune teller to the tree, "I see a chainsaw in your future."
Remember, the old oak trees along Broadway in Galveston started at a 3" circumference when planted by the WHPA (Women's Health Protective Association) of Galveston. "In 1912 WHPA planted an estimated 10,000 trees, along with 2500 Oleanders in the City of Galveston."
http://www.galveston-travel-and-charm.com/Oleander-City.html
Planting actually started in 1906 in response to the lack of trees after the 1900 Storm. Some were lost during Hurricane Ike.
If you like old oaks there are still plenty around League City but plant one or two or 10,000 if you like. They aren't "old majestic oaks" now but give them time. They'll grow. Have a rake at the ready.

Diane Turski

Another Mitchell named George valued trees when he developed The Woodlands! I would like to see both Joni's and George's words and actions considered when planning development in League City!

Gary Miller

I love trees, I've planted thousands of trees, Some of the trees I planted have been removed because after I planted them it was discovered they were in the way of something. I agreed with them being removed. A tree in the wrong place is just a big weed. Old trees are the biggest, most loved and hardest weeds to remove. Take a picture and remember them while you enjoy what replaced them.

Chuck DiFalco

I'm OK with whatever League City decides provided that the State of Texas doesn't interfere in our decision making process!

Gary Miller

A 3" diameter tree is ten times bigger than a 3" circumference tree.
30" diameter is a BIG tree, 30" circumference is a SMALL tree.

Randy Chapman

Pi says a 1 inch tree is 3.14 inches in circumference. Big difference from 3 inch diameter. I'm sure they hope most folks are thinking diameter when replaced. I'm sure they will replace with a bunch of twigs, but if only half survive, it eventually will be a net gain, until the next property owner wants to cut these down as well.

Robert Braeking

Good point. "The largest oak tree is more than 30 inches in circumference, city officials said." That would be less than a 10 inch caliper. My previous comment about milling the trees into lumber is a moot point. Once the bark and the round part of a 10" tree is removed that would leave a toothpick. A mill log needs to be at least 15" caliper to yield usable lumber.

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