Only a few people heard the sound of workers knocking over huge old-growth trees along East 1st Street a few weeks ago. Not many people live nearby or drive that road. The noise was more prominent on social media after Eastside resident Don Young (featured in this week’s cover story) posted photos of the carnage on Facebook.
“While you were enjoying a nice spring day, a huge swath of some of the oldest and largest trees in Fort Worth were bulldozed,” he wrote. “This is a massive destruction of our natural world in Fort Worth.”
The trees were removed alongside a back road near Gateway Park and the Trinity River where it stretches between Beach Street and Oakland Boulevard. East 1st is a scenic drive –– or at least it was until the Texas Department of Transportation went all Paul Bunyan on its ass. A week later, Young posted photos of the barren terrain, lamenting the loss of hundreds of towering maples and oaks, and characterizing the massacre as an “epic failure” by the city.
City spokesperson Michelle Gutt said the trees were cleared in preparation to widen East 1st. The city did environmental studies, discussed the project in public meetings, purchased $224,000 in environmental mitigation credits to receive the required U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit needed to do the work, and will fund $61,800 in tree mitigation to plant 103 trees in nearby Gateway Park.
Not everyone is impressed. Few people in the neighborhood were aware of the planned cutting. And planting 103 new trees in a park to replace 1,000 older and larger trees alongside a river road doesn’t seem adequate to some residents.
“You can’t take a 150-year-old tree and replace it with a younger one,” Young said. “We’re talking gigantic, healthy trees that were cut down for a road we don’t really need. Few travel that road.”
Tanker trucks carrying gas-drilling wastewater use the road to get to the city’s only frackwater disposal well, which sits near the intersection of East 1st and Oakland. A widened street will improve their access to nearby East Loop 820. Some residents believe the road widening and clear-cutting are the latest examples of the city placing industry’s preferences over those of residents. Some residents are really smart.