More than 20 cherry blossom trees to be removed downtown before NFL Draft

Tennessee
cherry blossom trees web_1553961302823.jpg_79823215_ver1.0_640_360_1553963324957.jpg.jpg

UPDATE: Nashville mayor said Saturday afternoon the trees will be moved, not cut and mulched

More than 20 cherry blossom trees will be removed along First Avenue ahead of the NFL Draft. After the trees are removed Monday morning from Riverfront Park, they will be turned into mulch and used on trails in Metro Parks, according to information provided by Metro Government officials.  

Members of the group Nashville Tree Foundation were notified of the extent of the plans Friday. 

In a statement to News 2, Board President Noni Nielson said, “It seems incredibly short-sighted to cut down trees that took 15+ years to grow for the convenience of a one-time, 48-hour event.”

Butch Spyridon, President and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitor Corp says the trees that will be removed will be replaced.

“We met with Metro Parks months ago to relay and discuss the intended removal and replacement of trees for NFL Draft events. Metro Parks staff evaluated and approved. Trees that can be replanted will be. Both the NFL and the NCVC have further committed to donate an additional 100 cherry trees each (200 total) to Metro Parks for the cherry blossom program.  Those trees should be planted and blooming by spring of 2020,” said Spyridon in a statement to News 2. 

Even with the promise of a donation, representatives from the Nashville Tree Foundation are asking city leaders to delay the removal of the trees.

A spokesman from Mayor Briley’s office says the NFL needed the 21 trees to be removed 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 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,” the statement read. 

Spyridon added, “The NFL Draft will be the largest event in the city’s history and will have significant economic return for Davidson County. The NCVC has been a committed partner with State Parks and Metro Parks on major events, as well as other conservation efforts. We know a beautiful city is vital to attract visitors, and we will continue to work with the city to make sure Nashville remains attractive.”

Metro Government released more information about the tree removal in a series of questions and answers shared below: 

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 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.

How many trees will be removed?

There are 21 trees in all – 10 at the Court of Flags at the foot of Broadway at First Avenue, and 11 bordering a walkway starting at Broadway and going up First Avenue North. 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.

There are a total of 68 trees in this planting area. Metro will be removing 21 of these.

When will trees be removed from Riverfront Park?

The trees are currently scheduled to be removed on Monday, April 1 at 9:00a CT.

What is happening to the trees after they are removed?

The trees will be turned into mulch and used on trails in other Metro Parks.

Will the trees be replanted?

Yes the trees will be replaced after the event. The NFL will replace each cherry tree that is taken with trees between 2.5″ and 3″ in diameter. There will be no cost to Metro taxpayers for these new trees. 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.

Metro will also be replacing a minimum of five trees in the area that are dead, damaged, diseased or are in need of replacement. These are not included in the 21 being removed for the Draft.

The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau will also be donating an additional 12 trees to be planted. That will bring the total number of trees being replanted to 38.

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 Lance, 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 publically – 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.

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter