Sacred Heart removed 50 inch + tree

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

At the last City Council meeting on August 27, I asked Mr. Robert Emmanuel, who represents Sacred Heart, about a large tree that Sacred Heart removed around January 2008. The tree, which had a diameter of more than 50 inches, was removed to make way for a sidewalk next to a planned extension of College Boulevard between Airport and Bayou. Neither the road extension or sidewalk were ever constructed.

According to City Manager Al Coby, "The City partnered with Sacred Heart as required to secure a $1,000,000 EDA grant for construction of the road. The City processed the tree removal permit as we would with any other application. However, Sacred Heart was responsible for the construction project including retaining the contractor. Had the road been built, the City would have accepted as a public roadway."

After further investigation, I found out that the new Ronald McDonald House on Bayou was built on property purchased from Sacred Heart. Representatives from Sacred Heart assured the Ronald McDonald House organization that the College Boulevard extension would be built. As I understand it today, the grant will not be funded and this road project has been put on hold indefinitely.

I find it disturbing that all the trees in the path of the planned road extension were clear-cut before funding was secured. Furthermore, Sacred Heart could have easily moved the planned roadway/sidewalk just a few feet in order to save a 50-inch plus tree, but chose not to. Mr. Emmanuel claimed that Sacred Heart Health System is a "good steward of the environment." Their unnecessary removal of trees, including the 50-inch plus tree pictured below, directly contradicts that. Now, under the new language that Sacred Heart was able to get into the tree ordinance at the last minute, their tree mitigation costs are even less than they were under the old tree ordinance.

One councilmember said that no version of the tree ordinance would save trees at the Sacred Heart campus, because they will develop their property either way. However, what should be understood is that due to the new cap for hospitals, fewer mitigation dollars will be paid into the tree fund, resulting in less funding for new tree planting in our community.

Recently a constituent asked me if Sacred Heart is paying a stormwater assessment fee. I have emailed City Manager Al Coby and am awaiting his response.

Below are several photographs of what remained of the 50-inch plus tree which I mentioned above. After Emerald Coastkeeper attorney Matt Schultz inquired about the removal of this tree, the stump was covered by concrete debris as is shown in the last photo.

I would like to state that I do appreciate all the good work that Sacred Heart does in our community, as well as the jobs they create. While I am disappointed in they way in which they chose to participate in the tree ordinance debate, I look forward to working with them to ensure their success in our community while continuing to protect our environment.


Gophergutz said...

It's one thing to say that SHH is a "good steward of the environment"...but as the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Anonymous said...

The Sacred Heart Hospital grounds certainly look better than any other business in town. They built the hospital around big trees for god's sake. Stop harassing them. There's certainly plenty of worse offenders around to tackle.

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