The oldest tree in Texas is 500-years-old, meaning that it’s not only older than the United States but has been standing in central Texas for longer than the plays of Shakespeare have existed. Yet the state of Texas’ Department of Transportation (Tx DOT) determined that this tree and a number of others had to be removed to build a new road through the small farming community of Snook. Care2 member Phyllis Tietjen — whose family has owned the property the trees are located on for almost 150 years — took action and started a Care2 petition not to destroy the trees. More than 68,000 members like you signed — and, in early March, the TxDOT announced it will reroute the planned highway bypass so as not to endanger the trees.
As TxDOT Deputy Director John Barton said, “This is one of those textbook examples that we are going to teach our upcoming engineers around the state that doesn’t compromise safety, enables us to have an environmentally friendly solution we came to with the community and gets done in a cost-effective manner.”
The original plan called for a total of four 200- to 300-year-old oak trees to be chopped down; as Phyllis notes, they were actually “SENTENCED to DEATH, marked with paint.” While the 500-year-old oak and five other trees were not supposed to removed, Phyllis, her family and environmental advocates feared, more than rightfully, that these majestic trees would be compromised by the new highway.
Phyllis says it best about why the old oak and the others trees must be saved:
“The grand tree is one of several live oak trees the arborist has measured to be 200-300 years old and is noted to be one of the few true Live Oak Forests in this area. My family has owned the property close to 150 years which the State of Texas recognized and entered into the Texas Family Land Heritage program. The grand oak has a trunk that measures around 25 feet in circumference. Its limbs extend somewhere around 100 feet. They have survived numerous severe droughts, floods hurricanes, lighting storms, you name it and they have beat it. Ponder for a few minutes about the history that has passed these trees by, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Coronado searched for gold, Jamestown was settled, John Hancock signed his name, Lewis and Clark walked to Portland, Hugh Glass fought a Bear, Bowie used his knife in a Church, Booth did the unthinkable, yes it just goes on and on till 2014.”
The TxDOT had determined that the trees stood in the way of building a new rural highway that was to have ”wide, grassy medians for safety and drainage,” as noted in the Valley Morning Star, The state did not actually plan to chop down the trees but the original plans for the road meant that, after gracing the community of Snook for centuries, they would for sure be affected by the new construction. To preserve the trees, it appears that the state will seek to create a narrower median for the highway, so the bypass can be built around the oaks.
The fight to save the historic trees went right down to the wire. Construction was to begin on April 1; early this month, the TxDOT had taken possession of the trees and the property around them, citing the state’s Eminent Domain Law.
It still remains to be seen if the state of Texas will stick to its words, carry out its plan to redesign the road and indeed, as TxDOT deputy director Joe Barton said in the Houston Chronicle, “[send] engineers back to the drawing board…” Keep up the pressure and make sure the TxDOT keeps its word. As Phyllis makes very clear, “Would you kill a giant sequoia or a redwood or take a highway through Muirwood just because it was more convenient? NO!!!!”
Is a beloved historic landmark in your community in danger of destruction in the name of “development”? Take action and start a Care2 petition to preserve it for posterity — and to let The Powers That Be know you don’t mess around with history.