City leaders reassure Nashville residents amid plans to remove downtown cherry trees

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The leader of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp is apologizing for not clearly communicating the plans to remove cherry trees from Riverfront Park to make way for a stage for the NFL Draft. 

Butch Spyridon, President, and CEO of the NCVC, held a news conference Sunday, saying he heard the public outcry “loud and clear.” 

Mayor David Briley’s office shared extensive information about the plans, indicating it was aware of the tree removal for several months. Those details were not publically released until Saturday and within hours, more than 50,000 people signed an online petition urging the mayor to act. 

The trees need to be removed to make way for a “stage, 400-foot structure, and other logistical elements that will serve as a focal point for the event,” according to Metro Nashville officials. 

The original plan was for the trees to be cut down Monday morning and turned into mulch. 

Saturday evening, Mayor Briley announced he’d informed the NCVC and NFL the trees scheduled to be removed must not be cut down, instead transferred and replanted somewhere else in the city. 

Spyridon clarified Sunday the plans shared by Metro Government were “worst-case scenario,” and said only 10 trees would be removed, instead of 21. He also said the cherry blossom trees lining the sidewalk on First Avenue North would be untouched. 

The trees that will be removed are the 10 in the Court of Flags at the end of Broadway, according to Spyridon. 

The NCVC and the NFL will cover the cost of the tree removal and replacement and will donate a collective 200 trees, as originally planned. 

The trees were supposed to be removed Monday, however, that has been postponed and a new date has yet to be announced. 

Below is information about the decision-making process to remove the trees released by Mayor Briley’s office Saturday: 

Why is it necessary to remove trees at Riverfront Park? 

The NFL Draft will be hosted in Nashville on April 25-27, 2019. The NFL indicates that the tree removal is needed to accommodate a stage, a 400-foot structure, and other logistical elements that will serve as a focal point for the event. 

Ultimately, Metro had to weigh the decision to save these 21 [10 is the most up-to-date count, per NCVC] trees against the economic impact of the event, the size of which makes it necessary to build the stage and other structures in question. Last year the NFL Draft had an economic impact on the city of Dallas of $125 million, with $75 million in direct spending. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau expects the impact on Nashville’s economy to be even greater. 

Metro regrets losing these trees, but they will be replaced with a healthier and equally beautiful stand of trees that will better stand the test of time. 

Nashville needs trees, especially beautiful, mature cherry trees like those in question, and for that reason Metro fought hard against the idea of taking these trees. 

Mayor Briley and Metro Government are committed to increasing the tree canopy of Nashville, and wholeheartedly supports the Root Nashville commitment to plant 500,000 trees in the city. We are looking forward on Earth Day to celebrate the planting of the 5,000th tree since this effort began in October 2018. 

Who is paying for the trees to be replanted? 

The cost of replacement trees will be covered by the NFL and CVC. There will be no expense to the city or the Parks Department. 

Who approved the tree removal? 

When negotiations were beginning for the stage for the NFL Draft and Metro learned that the size of the stage and other structures would require that cherry trees be taken down, Metro advised that keeping those trees was a priority for the city. 

Early on, the Mayor’s Office discussed the matter with Metro Parks Horticulturist Randall Lantz, who personally planted most of these trees a number of years ago. Mr. Lance indicated that some of the trees in this area have previously died, others are compromised and should be replaced soon, and this is an opportunity to shore up the soil, the grates surrounding the trees and the irrigation system in the area and replant new, healthy trees. 

Metro Parks Horticulturist Randall Lantz will coordinate the project and has already ordered replacement trees that will be planted after the NFL event. The replacement trees will range in size from two and a half-inch to three-inch trees, which is an ideal size for establishment of the tree. This project will allow the Parks department to improve poor soil, drainage and water supply issues that have plagued the trees planted at Riverfront Park for many years. 

What about Executive Order 40? Did the Metro Tree Review Panel know about this? 

Executive Order 40 states: 

The Metro Tree Review Panel will be created to review and approve Metro projects and land-management activities on Metropolitan Government properties that include removals of trees over 100 aggregate inches in diameter at breast height, or of any single specimen tree over 30 inches in diameter at breast height. Trees that are dead, diseased, invasive, potentially hazardous, or less than six inches in caliper will not count toward the aggregate total. The Metro Tree Review Panel shall establish replacement standards for removed trees and pursue retention where feasible. These standards will apply to projects across all Metropolitan Government departments and agencies, and for which there is no grading permit or development plan required. This protocol will not apply to areas managed as grasslands or mixed-grass meadows. 

The Metro Tree Review Panel is aware of the removal of the trees. Since the trees will be replaced, the aggregate inches will be less than 100 inches in diameter at breast height. Therefore, the Metro Tree Review Panel did not have to approve the removal. 

However, the Metro Tree Review Panel has approved the removal and the replacement of the trees. 

Are these trees a part of the Betty Brown Tree Trail? 

No. None of these trees are a part of the trail. 

Will there be additional tree plantings? 

We are still working out the details on two additional tree plantings, but we have already announced publicly – Mayor’s remarks at Arbor Day – that there will be a Root Nashville tree planting in partnership with the NFL. The NFL routinely sponsors tree plantings to help reduce the environmental impact of the Draft and Super Bowl and to leave a positive “green” legacy on and around host communities. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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