In what was an admittedly hard decision, the Kyle City Council voted to remove a 51-inch live oak known as the Old Stagecoach Road Tree at its April 8 meeting, but they say their thinking was swayed by the fact its wood will go to good use.
Prior to the vote during the council’s online meeting, Mayor Travis Mitchell added an amendment that the harvested wood be used for art projects to be displayed in public parks including Heroes Park. Mitchell named council members Tracy Scheel, Michael Tobias and Robert Rizo to a task force charged with making the initiative a reality.
When the historic old tree will be cut down is the decision of engineering crews involved in widening Old Stagecoach Road.
Arborist David Vaughn, hired by the city to evaluate the health of the old tree, called it a “poor candidate for preservation,” citing damage the existing road has done to its root system. “Even though it looks really, really nice, trees are very good at disguising the stresses they are dealing with,” he told the council.
At the present time, Vaughn said the tree is at “moderate risk” but that if the construction proceeded around it and further damaged the root system it could become at “high” or “extreme” risk of, for example, getting blown down in a thunderstorm.
Several suggestions for preserving the tree were discussed, including having it moved, for example to the Heroes Memorial Park. “Any chance (to save it) is better than none,” council member Tracy Scheel said. Despite the arborist’s poor prognosis, she said, “you never know. Mother Nature plays weird games on us. If she made the decision to save it, we should give it the opportunity.”
After more discussion, Scheel was the first to suggest using the wood if the tree were removed.
Council member Robert Rizo pointed out it would cost around $150,000 to move a tree of that size. He also expressed concern for public safety should the tree remain. “I worry about traffic up and down that roadway,” he said, adding that after the improvements are done, traffic will increase, as will speeding. “My concern is in public safety — somebody wrapping a car around that tree. It’s already been hit several times.”
“It’s not the tree’s fault (for being hit),” Council member Michael Tobias said. While he spoke of the tree’s historical significance to the community, he agreed with Scheel in wanting to use the wood.
“The old oak tree along Old Stagecoach Road is historic for its associations with a historic road and the early community of Mountain City, as well as for its size,” said Kate Johnson, chair of the Hays Country Historical Commission.
“Heritage or landmark oak trees are a living native oak tree several hundred years old and at least 40 to 50 inches in diameter (or larger). As trees this old are not numerous, they are considered to be of greater value. There are very few oak trees of this size that have survived along the Old Stagecoach Road.”