by Amy Martin
Oh no! Not again! Not that tree, not our tree, our beloved “Indian marker tree,” our landmark, our friend. The landmark leaning tree on Peavy just past Lake Highlands in the Dixon Branch greenbelt. For decades Eastlake residents have taken family pictures perched on the tree’s horizontal trunk. People picnic there. Small children adore it; after all, it’s at their level.
Photo by Velpeau E Hawes Jr.
And now it’s almost all gone.
Remaining photos by Amy Martin and Scooter Smith
The leaning tree is pecan, a wood valued for meat smoking. Stealing wood from pecan trees on public property is currently a crime wave. Since last fall, the tree has been assaulted by vandals multiple times, chopping off significant limbs. Once alert citizens were able to stop vandals in the act, but police let the culprit go, and more vandalism happened the very next day.
High-wind storms blew through Dallas early morning on March 30, leaving trees blown down by wind. Late in the afternoon, Tina Weinert of Eastwood noticed a man chainsawing the tree. She called 911 and told the man that what he was doing was illegal. He replied with rudeness. Tina called me and my husband Scooter Smith and I zipped down there.
By that time, Tom from Lochwood had arrived and blocked the vandal’s vehicle with his big pick-up. He also confronted the man, who threatened him with a whirring chainsaw!
Police began arriving, five cars in all. I called Michael Parkey of the Eastwood Riparian Committee, who called Karen Woodard, city forester. She in turn tracked down Russell Hooper, district supervisor for the park department. Even though on vacation, he fought rush hour traffic and came over.
The vandal told police he was authorized by the city to cut storm-downed trees, but could not provide paperwork backing his claim. Why he didn’t just pull the plentiful, already downed wood from the area curbs, we’ll never know. It was assumed by all he planned to sell the pecan wood to meat smokers.
People showed the police photos of family gatherings at the tree, picnics by the tree, children playing on the tree. They expressed their love for the tree, its legend as an Indian marker tree (though at an estimated 75 years it’s too young), and how it served as a landmark for the area.
None of the police had dealt with this kind of crime, so there was confusion. But several of them lived in the area and were aware of the tree and its sentimentality. While the police were hanging around, they apprehended a young man for what appeared to be theft or burglary.
Hooper of the park department gave the tree a valuation of a minimum of $10,000, which allowed a charge of felony criminal mischief. He confirmed to the police that the property was part of Lake Highlands Park and the cutting was unauthorized. He verified that the tree had been vandalized multiple times before. The vandal was arrested and taken away. His truck and trailer were towed after rush hour.
A policeman said that the vandal would probably request a judge trial, rather than face a jury of potential tree lovers. A sympathetic judge might let the vandal off. But any way you look at it, the vandal is out many thousands of dollars in bail, impoundment fees, court costs, and lawyer services. He won’t be cutting trees in the parks again.
As things were wrapping up, councilman Mark Clayton came by, saying his office was flooded with calls. He expressed his concern to the officers and thanked Hooper for coming by on vacation day.
It was shocking to see! The main limb that touched the ground and grown in had been cut in two. It will never look like it did. The rooted end section may die. We’ll have to learn to love the way it looks now. It will always be our beloved landmark tree.
A steady stream of residents came by, each one was livid. We stood in vigil. A little boy touched the tree and cried that “my tree is hurting.” A girl, Harper, came by with a band-aid for the tree. Heartbreaking! Lots of kids were deeply upset. Represented were Eastwood, Lake Park Estates, Lochwood, and Old Lake Highlands neighborhoods.
Photo by Tim Rogers
Recovery is going to be touchy. The tree is expected to survive, though it is deeply damaged. There is enough canopy left to regenerate it, but it will be slow. Eastwood Riparian Committee, which are the volunteer stewards of the Dixon Branch Greenbelt section across Peavy, is pursuing park approval of post-trauma tree care by licensed tree professionals. Once we have a total, a fund will be set up to receive donations for this effort.
The Future of Our Tree
So what to do now? Planting another tree is impossible. Current park department policy is that all new trees and plants installed on park property must have automatic irrigation, which makes it extremely expensive to plant.
Let’s ponder the possibility of some kind of garden around it. Same problem with park regulations and irrigation, so plants are out of the question. But a serious wildflower planting around it using seeds may be possible. Perhaps if it seemed like a garden, vandals would pass it by.
Signage could also be pursued, giving the tree an informal designation like “neighborhood landmark” or something like that, noting that even though besieged by weather and floods (which is assumed what pushed it down), and assaulted by vandals, it persisted. Some kind of sign that’s easy to mow around and can’t decay rapidly.
With our love, we have taken responsibility for the tree. Please visit our beloved sentinel of time and express your thoughts. Lay your hands on it and give a little love. You will be rewarded in return.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the human of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” ~ William Blake
Dallas Morning News:
“A man tried to cut down a beloved tree in White Rock, but neighbors weren’t having it”
by Claire Z. Cardona
“The only comfort for neighbors comes from the sawed off tree’s tiny signs of life. There’s a sprout near the end of the trunk that gives them hope, and something to defend for its next 75 years.”
by Marie Saavedra
by Alexie _______
Eastwood Neighborhood Association: Blog article with lots of photos
by Amy Martin
“Oh no! Not again! Not that tree, not our tree, our beloved “Indian marker tree,” our landmark, our friend.”
D Magazine Frontburner blog: Harper has a band-aid for the tree
by Tim Rogers
“It is ironic that a man who illegally cuts up trees would live in a city called Red Oak. Even more ironic: the man lives on a street called Pecan Court. We’ll have to talk about what “irony” means later.”
Advocate Lakewood/East Dallas: News recap with link to prior incident
by Keri Mitchell
“The message is clear: You mess with our trees, you better be prepared to take on the entire neighborhood.”