Tree removal from downtown Victoria upsets residents

Ismael Perez By Ismael Perez

Dec. 25, 2017 at 9:27 p.m.
Updated Dec. 26, 2017 at 6 a.m.

A work crew from Quality Tree Service works to remove two oak trees on Santa Rosa Street on Christmas Eve, prompting neighbors to attempt to unsuccessfully save the trees.

A work crew from Quality Tree Service works to remove two oak trees on Santa Rosa Street on Christmas Eve, prompting neighbors to attempt to unsuccessfully save the trees.   Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

Neighbors who live near the intersection of Santa Rosa and De Leon Street woke up to the sound of a chainsaw on Christmas Eve.

Doris Santiago, who has lived on the Santa Rosa block since 1964, walked out to see workers turn picturesque trees she grew up admiring into sawdust.

"These oak trees are an integral part of our history," she said. "And for them to do this the morning before Christmas, it's morally wrong."

Phones at Victoria County's Courthouse kept ringing behind locked doors Sunday as neighbors and history advocates tried to stop the destruction of what they described as historic trees that bring "intrinsic value" to Victoria.

As of Christmas Day, it was undetermined who called for the removal of the trees and why.

The timing of the tree removal upset residents because they could not reach the courts to help them appeal it.

"We have been working all morning trying to get a temporary restraining order or temporary injunction, but there are no judges available on Sunday or Christmas Eve," said Veronica McManus, 55. "Why would they pick this day if they knew people wouldn't be OK with it?"

Gary Hall, chair of the Victoria County Historical Commission and lifetime member of the Victoria Preservation Inc., lives across from the property where the trees used to stand.

He said the trees were planted in the 1930s by Victoria Mayor Ben Jordan.

The purpose of the trees was to make Santa Rosa Street look more prominent for people who arrived in Victoria from the Southern Pacific train depot and drove to the historic Denver Hotel.

Hall commended Mayor Paul Polasek for showing up minutes after being called and for trying to persuade the tree trimmers and owners to stop.

He said if a judge would have been available, the tree removal could have been stopped. He also described the timing of the removal as odd.

"The trees were in a historic district; you'd think they would put more care and thought into it," Hall said.

Residents wondered if the workers - who were from Quality Tree Service - had a permit to block off the street or a permit to remove the trees, McManus said. City and county offices being closed for the holiday prevented them from finding out.

She said neighbors plan to join together as a community to try to place restrictions that would prevent things, such as tree removal, from happening in the future.

"We live here on this street for a certain reason. We love the downtown historical district," she said. "The trees were part of Victoria history, and now that part of history is completely gone."

In order to prevent similar events from happening, Hall said people should contact elected officials and let them know the community cares about preserving landmarks.

"If we are going to say, 'Keep Victoria Beautiful,' let's not just put it on trash cans; let's do it," Hall said.



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