Ah, the glories of summer!!! It is June again and time to lop, (sorry about that, I meant “TRIM”), trees, especially that red oak tree on the corner of the Square House Museum property at 5th Street and Highway 207. A TXDOT employee showed up on Monday afternoon and proceeded to start sawing limbs off the tree without any kind of notice to any employee of the Museum. When confronted, he explained that TXDOT had received a complaint from some unknown person who said that tree was obstructing the stop sign. This fellow was sent, according to him, to ”cut off a couple of limbs, and take care of it so they would not be called out at midnight.” He started sawing on one of two limbs behind the stop sign that touched the back of the sign. He did not choose to trim the one that had leaves hanging over the “Hwy. 207” portion of the sign. He did not trim back the leafy part that was in contact with the sign. Instead, he started sawing 8 feet back from the sign, which was about third of the distance from the trunk of the tree. I have been told by arborists and botanists that you should never trim more than third of the length of a branch and never to trim most trees in the heat of summer. The temperature on Monday, June 18, 2012 registered 101 degrees.
During this discussion, a very friendly and cooperative law enforcement officer came by and agreed that he would be upset if an overhanging limb from the tree damaged his vehicle. To demonstrate that it was indeed a hazard, he drove around the corner, and sure enough, with his wheels against the curb on Highway 207, (which I had understood was a bike lane from the time the highway was widened), one branch protruded 4 inches into his vehicle.
Having had the opportunity to work for Continental Insurance following Hurricane Andrew, I learned that trees, especially old ones, have great value. If this is true where there is an abundance of trees, how much more so in a place where trees have to be nurtured and cared for, and often still die.
Like most things, this was a learning experience. According to the city ordinance regulating this matter, all of the streets with the exception of Maple, Oak, and Pecan have an 80 foot wide clearance, with half of this distance being measured from the middle of the street for each side.. The three exceptions have a 60 foot clearance. All shrubbery, trees and other growths must be trimmed 7 foot above the street surface. There is a house on a corner of Maple Street that overhangs the cross street far enough to park a pickup under it and the overhang drapes halfway down the pickup. Another a little farther up from this one overhangs the street enough to provide a very generous shade.
I think the biggest surprise was that two government entities, TXDOT and the City of Panhandle, agreed they act on anonymous complaints. Most reputable newspapers will not even publish a letter to the editor unless it is signed. They may not publish the author, but they do have the name on file. This could lead to a lot of problems. If someone offends me in some way, I can retaliate by calling in a complaint about the foliage on their property and the government will go and attack for me. If anyone else were to do that it would be considered destruction of public or private property, with a probable harassment charge added.
People from all 50 states come to visit the Museum and marvel at the quality. Many international visitors also are amazed. Yet people who we expect to “Protect and Serve” choose to arbitrarily come and destroy what someone provided long before they began their tenure. Is there any way the people of Carson County can help the staff become better stewards of the Square House Museum and its property?
Director of the Carson County Square House Museum