Sunday, May 04, 2008

“Is it going to be Pecan Stump Road now?”


Contractor removes landmark pecan tree by mistake

May 4, 2008

Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2008

FORRESTON – More than 100 years of history lays shredded in a bar ditch; a historic landmark for this tiny community is no more.

Late last week, a state contractor sawed, chopped and mulched one of Forreston’s signature sights, the huge pecan tree marking the eastbound turn off of U.S. Highway 77 onto Pecan Tree Road.

“Is it going to be Pecan Stump Road now?” said Jeff Browning of Waxahachie, who said he was shocked when he saw a crew taking the tree down. “It was a tree SWAT team, there were so many people working on it. In this day and age of air pollution, when someone cuts down a tree like that, it’s a crime against humanity.”

Forreston business owner Barbara Kauffman of Bon Ton Vintage described herself as “devastated” at the tree’s destruction. She said she’d driven by the tree the day before it was cut and hadn’t noticed anything amiss with it, such as damage from recent storms that could have prompted its removal.

“That was a landmark,” she said, noting it was easy to give directions based on the tree’s location because of its stature and visibility.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Ron Brown said he immediately contacted the Texas Department of Transportation after the tree’s removal came to his attention and was told a contractor had made a mistake.

“The tree was over 100 years old. It was alive and it’s been a landmark for years,” Brown said. “I remember the tree from when I was about 4 years old – and it was full grown then.”

He agrees with the value the tree had as a marker through the years.

“You could tell people to go one mile past the tree, go two miles. That was the only tree on the highway for a long time,” he said.

Brown has filed a letter of complaint with TxDOT’s Ellis County office, which is forwarding the letter to its contractor as well as conducting its own investigation into what happened.

“I will be making formal contact with the contractor and giving him a chance to respond,” area engineer Bill Pierce said.

From what he has determined so far, the contractor cut down the pecan tree even though TxDOT hadn’t marked it for destruction.

“We mark the trees to be removed and that one was not marked,” Pierce said, noting markings are always made with bright, fluorescent orange paint in accordance with the extensive specifications found in the state agency’s contracts for brush and tree removal in right of ways. “It was a mistake because (the contractor) has to be directed by TxDOT to remove a tree.”

Even if the tree had been damaged or sickly, it still would have been TxDOT’s decision as to its disposition, not the contractor’s, he said.

“Anything that has a substantial diameter, like that tree, we would look at two or three times before making a decision to take it out,” Pierce said, saying of what happened, “It’s not the way we do business.”

Efforts to obtain comment from the contractor were unsuccessful by press time Saturday.

Although Brown grew up near the historic pecan tree, he said he never climbed it, quipping, “I was too short. But I remember as a kid that people would stop there under the tree while they were traveling. … They would sit there and eat their lunch. … And then the Highway Patrol used to sit under it and catch people.”

He said he’s saddened by the tree’s loss.

“There were a lot of memories there – and those memories are still there, there’s just no tree,” he said.

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