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Ghirardi Oak Centurion Faces League City Demolition

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posted on Jan, 20 2012 @ 11:13 PM

Would you believe, dear reader, that through a chance encounter and an off-the-wall comment about trees, we find a unique story of one small town’s struggle to save a community landmark from encroaching development... gotta love it, especially when an esteemed ATS member is involved in the thick of it.

The story:

Thank you for the EARTH AID info. That was a very moving video, sure to stir passions as you hoped and watching that, one would wonder how any sane person could enter that sort of experience. But then I don't think our "leaders" are particularly sane in many instances.

Imagine if the energy and passion behind such acts could be directed toward other endeavors, where could we be as a species?

Which is one of the reasons I am working so hard to save these trees. Not only for what they do for the local environment, but for what they represent on so many levels.

The history of the town, League City, which uses the oak tree on its city seal, has always been entertwined with oak trees.

We’ll let Michael fill in the unique and interesting details that trace his family history back to the roots of the city.

Now, to the city road-widening machine vs. 100-year old “green” opponent.

Just who are the good guys?

Is it just a bunch of tree-hugging environmentalist wackos blocking any type of development willy-nilly, or are these really concerned citizens brought together in the common cause of preserving community heritage from "the machine?"

Demolition of Ghirardi oak still a possibility

The city still is negotiating for the land at the corner of FM 518 and Louisiana Avenue, but the chances of saving the century old Ghirardi oak tree might be getting slimmer, some city council members said...

While the city still is negotiating for the land, Dawson said those negotiations do not include saving the Ghirardi oak... 

Asked if she thought there was a chance to save the tree, Dawson said, “I really don’t think so.”

Great fight so far, Michael, good job.

The only problem I have with all of this is the $300,000 to move the tree. It would seem that the biggest tree company in Texas that specializes in this type of thing might move it for the PR value, you know, the knight-in-shining armor deal.

This is an example of a large tree being moved by Environmental Designs. It certainly appears that they are capable, but is moving the tree for over a quarter of a million dollars and the possible risk of maiming or even killing it really the way to go?

Maybe we could help there in some way, being in the tree business and having spent quite a lot of time with Katrina, Rita and Ike in your neck of the woods and know people, but you're there and probably already know all the players, judging from the way you handle yourself here.

We’ll write a letter outlining our ideas and indicating overall support.

Michael Ghirardi talks about the history of the Ghirardi Oak as his sons Eric and Drayce walk beneath the tree with his father,
Clarence Ghirardi.

Then, a light appeared.

Nonprofit offers $10,000 to help save Ghirardi oak

After months of debate over the fate of the Ghirardi oak, a Houston nonprofit is offering to help raise the money to move the historic oak. It’s also offering to donate $10,000 of its own cash. 

And to help find a new home for the tree, Clarence Ghirardi, a member of the family for which the tree is named, has offered to donate a piece of his property a quarter of a mile down Louisiana Avenue from where the tree stands. 

Barry Ward, executive director of Trees for Houston, said the nonprofit has no dog in the political fight over what to do with the oak.

The tree, a rare hybrid of live oak and overcup oak called a Compton oak, sits at FM 518 and Louisiana Avenue. Work to widen Louisiana has begun, but before the project can be completed, the city must decide what to do with the tree.

Moving the tree to the proposed Water Smart Park on Louisiana Avenue could cost almost $300,000.

Moving the road and creating a pocket park around the tree could cost $360,000 to $735,000.

The third option is to cut the tree down (about $27,000). 

“We feel it’s up to both the representatives and constituents in League City to make those decisions,” Ward said. “That being said, it is an important tree, and our job is trees. If they decide they want to save it, we will do what we can...”

“We used to park under that tree and sort cantaloupe,” Clarence Ghirardi said. He said he would like to see the tree stay where it is and have a park built around it, but moving the tree is better than cutting it down. 

His son, Michael Ghirardi, who now lives in Texas City, has been working with a growing number of people to convince the city to save the tree.

He’s not celebrating yet, but he said he’s had some good conversations with the mayor and city manager and he hopes this new plan will work. 

“We’ve got to fight for it while we got it,” Michael Ghirardi said. “Otherwise it will be gone, and nobody will ever know it was here.”

There is positive feeling in the community to save the tree.

This offer for outside help and fundraising makes so much sense. It would save a tree, add to a great new park, and result in the most logical roadway intersection alignment.

The City should accept the offer, and the roadway project should contribute whatever was budgeted for removal of the tree to its moving fund. — By Chris Doherty

And we close with our letter in support of this valiant effort:


An interesting conundrum, to be sure.

Option one: Moving the Compton oak to the Water Smart Park.
Cost: About $292,000 which would come from dedicated park fees.

Option two: Shift the Louisiana Avenue project west and create a pocket park around the Compton oak.
Cost: At least $267,000 and the money would come out of the city’s general fund reserves.

Option three: Cut the Compton oak down and replace it with new oaks according to the city’s tree preservation plan.
Cost: About $27,500 from the city’s general fund reserves.


Eliminate Option 2 and 3 because of expense to the city.

Then, it would seem to be a no-brainer, IMHO, because Option #1 comes from dedicated park fees that would place no financial liability on the city.

Even though we abhor the idea of moving such an historic community icon, Option One completely removes the money thing. (We actually own a tree service company and slay them for a living).

Besides that, if the fees are not used, they disappear and are of no use.

Good luck!

Peace Love Light
[align=center][color=magenta]Liberty & Equality or Revolution[/align]

posted on Jan, 20 2012 @ 11:28 PM
I have been following this story for awhile,and all I can say is ,

edit on 20-1-2012 by kdog1982 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 20 2012 @ 11:52 PM
Oh Gosh! Have not heard this story, thanks JD

I love trees sooo much.

One of my neighbors 3 houses down had a very old and very big aromatic cedar tree in the back yard, they decided to add on to the back of their house and cut it down, for no reason other than they needed the room. I was so pissed but of course didn't say anything. The day they cut it down the entire block smelled like cedar. I was very very sad.

Trees are very finicky, I hope they do what's best for that old oak

posted on Jan, 20 2012 @ 11:53 PM
S & F from a fellow Houston resident.

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 12:26 AM
Made my eyes leak with joy....

Bright Blessings...


posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 08:24 AM
Maybe there is hope for better things to come.

Oak trees have always had a special place in my heart, and I often give Oak seedlings as gifts to friends on special occasions.

Its so nice to see something good happen!

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 08:28 AM
Great thread, good job with all the information! Love trees, we need to celebrate them!

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 08:30 AM
I love when people do things like this.....Way to go!

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 09:48 AM
Great thread TfW! 

This is exactly the type of thing the Fragile Earth forum is about. 

What price, as a society, are we paying for our ever increasing expansion and growth. I am not anti-progress by any means, I love my technology, but there has to be a place for our history, not to mention care for the environment in which we find ourselves. 

Road projects are planned years in advance, even in small towns (current population is a bit over 85000) and there are environmental impact assessments done for each project. 

As always, I am sure there is more to the story, looking in the comments of the original article from which the KHOU article is based, we find more:

Pat Hallisey (Pat_Hallisey )
December 15, 2011 11:17 AM #7 of 18
Reply | Request staff review
I keep asking myself this question. 

This road has been on the drawing board for many years. How did a City Engineer, City Planner and a host of consulting engineers miss this?

Any one of the previous mentioned knows that trees of that calipher are trouble for roadways. 

My goodness the City has an ordinance to save any tree of a large calipher.

I suggest there is a attitude down there that issues like this are someone else's problem.

I remember when Fay Dudney and Margret Revis took a stand against the Texas Highway Department when they wanted to bulldoze down the Butler Oaks on Main ST, when it was expanded to four lanes

Who do you think came out ahead on that confrontation?

So the citizens of the town have a history of standing up to government machinery specifically in road vs. tree confrontations. 

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 10:22 AM

off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 01:38 PM
reply to post by thorfourwinds

Dear thorfourwinds,

Wait, what? I dunno where that JD came from

But, I DO know Jack, he's my daddy

I know the other Jack too

Or, are you really the thinly-disguised master baiter behind the soggy shower curtain on the good ship Raging Queen

uhhhhh, what? NO!

We are glad you love us anyway!!!

I DO live in Berzerkeley, maybe I slipped into a time warp hahaha

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 01:56 PM
Well well well, looky here:

City council should come out of the shade on oak

The reason is that the city council voted, 6-1, with Joanna Dawson dissenting, to take action as was discussed in the closed-door meeting.

Perhaps an action on that motion was legal, but it’s hard to see how that could even be possible.

Just a month ago, The Daily News protested a growing trend among governing bodies to emerge from executive sessions with a motion that goes something like: “We agree to proceed as we decided in executive session.”

Closed door decisions about issues which are important to the people who will be affected by those decisions. even about something as insignificant as a tree lead to even more such decisions being made in a similar fashion.

It's this indifference to the voice of the people who elected the city council that is as much to blame as is the lack o foresight when this road was in the planning stages.

Again, the comments flesh out the story:

Pat Hallisey (Pat_Hallisey )
December 17, 2011 8:11 AM #1 of 2
Reply | Request staff review
Nicely done Heber. I have wondered about this subject, especially in light of some of the lawsuits the city finds itself involved in. They come out of executive session and direct staff to do what was discussed behind closed doors. Would certainly appear they found some method of agreement in the dark.

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 10:04 PM
reply to post by thorfourwinds


Somehow, we thought we were humorously referencing bezerkleygals reference to "JD."

So it was not off-topic, well, now that we think of it, it may well have been: double oops.

Back to League City and victory!

Peace Love Light
[align=center][color=magenta]Liberty & Equality or Revolution[/align]

posted on Jan, 22 2012 @ 09:49 AM

...Demolished by the hurricane of 1900, the school was quickly rebuilt and became known as the “Little Green School”.  St. Mary’s Catholic Church stands on land donated by League to the citizens of League City.


One of the primary historical landmarks in League City are the beautiful oak trees that line a portion of FM 518...Two of the tree-laden flat cars were reserved for the residents of League City to plant on their property.

...Much of this produce was grown by a group of Italian families that immigrated to League City from Cercenasco, Italy a small town located in the province of Turin. Over a thirty year period, these Italian famiglia entered America via Ellis Island, New York, sailed to the Port of Galveston, and moved inland to League City. They possessed names still very familiar to many League City residents: Vaglienti, Ghirardi, Arolfo, Daro, Cucco, Morratto and Bocco. The transplantation of these Piedmontese to North Galveston County produced a strong, cohesive Italian community that continues to maintain a close relationship today.

From the History of league City

This is published on the city's website.

Looking for more news articles in the Galveston Daily News we find the following:

Now, her childhood home, the Ghirardi House, has been moved from the corner of FM 518 and Louisiana Avenue to League City’s Heritage Park, and the oak tree that bears her family’s name barely avoided being bulldozed to make way for a road expansion.

While things might have changed, the Ghirardi family, one of the original 12 Italian families that settled in League City in the late 1800s, has remained.

Parade marshals reflects LC's Italian roots

Wait, this article, dated November 27, 2011, says the tree "has barely avoided being bulldozed..."

There's got to be more going on than meets the eye.

posted on Jan, 24 2012 @ 12:19 AM
Not always a huge fan of man made 'progress' removing things that have outlived such progress by many years.

How about make the road double decked as it goes past - then everyone can see the tree. I'm sure an aspiring or established construction company can man up to subsidize the bill, get some good karma and publicity.

posted on Jan, 24 2012 @ 10:08 AM
reply to post by GhostR1der

Well, looking back a bit further than the parade article, we find the following:

League City to move road, not Compton Tree

LEAGUE CITY — With a historic Compton oak tree standing in the way of development, League City council members were faced with a tough choice at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

They could choose to pay almost $300,000 to have the tree moved 2,000 feet to a proposed park along Louisiana Avenue.

The tree could be cut down, costing the city nearly $30,000 and the city symbol, the oak tree, being hacked to pieces by a chainsaw.

Or the council could choose to go a different route and move the road so it misses the 100-year old oak tree, known as the Ghirardi oak.

In a tight vote, the council chose to move the road instead of the tree. City staff will now need to redesign the road so it leaves the Compton oak in place and buy a greater portion of land to accommodate the new design.

Council members Dan Becker, Dennis O'Keeffe and Andy Mann voted against the plan, while Phyllis Sanborn, Joanna Sharp Dawson and Mick Phalen voted for it.

Councilman Lee was not present, so Mayor Tim Paulissen voted for the new road design to break the tie.

So back in September, the city council voted to go around the tree rather gthan try to move it or cut it down. Something seems to have interfered with that plan as the current plan is back to moving the gigantic tree.

Again, I find the comments quite illumminating, a selection:

Lisa Freeman (Eliza)

September 28, 2011 7:36 AM

#2 of 22

Reply | Request staff review

I am very proud to be a resident of League City right now. We chose to keep something of beauty and strength. It shows the beauty of the integrity of League City. I know it will cost. But the bigger cost is the city cutting down the tree. This will only add to the charm of our League City.

LC- Local (rjblanchard1)

September 28, 2011 7:57 AM

#3 of 22

Reply | Request staff review

You finally got something right, city council!! Great job, I knew you had it in you.

And then there are also a few who are opposed to this:

Gary Miller (IHOG)

September 28, 2011 10:43 AM

#7 of 22

Reply | Request staff review

If League City taxpayers think saving this "BIG WEED" is worth $700,000 to $1 million then it really was the right decision.

I wonder if anyone has checked to see if it's actually alive. This drought has killed many trees. Does it have living 'cap cells' on the end of feeder roots? Is it's vascular system still working? Oaks can be dead for a long time before looking dead.

Gary Miller (IHOG)

September 28, 2011 10:57 AM

#8 of 22

Reply | Request staff review

The real project and related cost seems to be forgotten in the hype over a tree.

Widening Lousianna street is the project. Is the cost worth the benefit? Saving the tree may add upwards of $1 million to the project cost.

Worth it?

Adding unrelated, unexpected and off budget costs is how 'government funded projects go over budget'.

Normal bureaucratic opperation. Get the project approved then add 'must have' costs.

What was the approved project cost? What is the cost now?

Don Ciaccio (DonaldCiaccio)

September 28, 2011 11:31 AM

#10 of 22

Reply | Request staff review

$700,000 - $1,000,000 to move the street around the tree.. Wow.. I wonder what else might have been done in League City rather than spend a mlllion bucks on one tree?

Don Ciaccio (DonaldCiaccio)

September 28, 2011 11:32 AM

#11 of 22

Reply | Request staff review

Vaness, May I suggest you living in a tree!

So, it seems as though the is some debate over whether or not this tree is worth saving.

What say you, ATS?

posted on Jan, 24 2012 @ 04:39 PM
I was wondering if they could offer up some local process to let the people of that city vote on it?

Get it out of the politics of the council and let the people decide.
edit on 24-1-2012 by kdog1982 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 24 2012 @ 09:12 PM
reply to post by kdog1982

Good idea, except for this:

Work to widen Louisiana has begun, but before the project can be completed, the city must decide what to do with the tree.

I'm sure you know how glacially slow any sort of civic process is, so any sort of referendum would not even be ready to appear on a ballot for months. And it looks like time for that sort of process is just not there.



As for the preparers who may have missed the tree, which is within the 300' APE of the project, here is that list:

"This report was prepared and assembled by the following individuals who meet the Secretary of the Interiors Professional Qualification Standards (36 CFR 61).

Laurie Gotcher - Project Manager/Historian , B.A. in History with 10 years experience

Emily Thompson Payne - Architectural Historian 

M.S. in Historic Preservation with 5 years experience

Christian Hartnett - GIS /Graphics Specialist, M.S. Archaeology with 10 years experience"

Comments to "Residents hold candle light vigi for tree"

So we have one Bachelors level and two Masters level consultants, who probably aren't from the area and know nothing about the local history, working on the Environmental Assessment for the road project which was published four years ago.

This would have been the ideal time to bring the issue before the voters...

At that time, no one was even thinking about the danger to the tree. It wasn't until bulldozers showed up to begin road construction that the population in general became aware of the potential loss of the tree and began making a fuss.

Kind of reminds me of some of the ignorance we've uncovered surround Tepco's history...

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 12:00 PM
reply to post by jadedANDcynical


We sincerely hope you are not in the way of those tornados and are safely below ground,
in your bunker, on ATS with incisive blow-by-blow (pun) commentary.

We are locked and loaded for Alabama when the weather breaks... Operations shape-shifts into Bama Tree...

Hope our Disaster Relief Team doesn't have to come to Texas again so soon.

Stay safe, my friend.

Peace Love Light
[align=center][color=magenta]Liberty & Equality or Revolution[/align]

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 03:18 PM
This photo is quite moving to me.

It shows two generations of the tree and highlights how far the Compton Oak has come. At some point over a hundred years ago, this gargantuan tree looked just like thistiny sapling.

In that time, numerous hurricanes followed by freezes, periods of too much rain, or (as now) too little rain. An in that century of existence, much has gone on in the wide world. We went from steam and horse power, to rocket ships and bits of technology that let people communicate across the globe.

The tree could live another several hundred more years, imagine what could be developed in that time period, if we humans ever decide to become better stewards of our planet?

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