Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Centuries-Old Live Oaks Fighting for Their Lives Against TxDOT. Guess Who’ll Win?

Update: TxDOT told the Houston Chronicle Thursday that they’re redesigned the road they’re building in Snook to avoid cutting down the Live Oaks that are hundreds of years old. The 103-year old Live Oak in Austin known as the “Taco Bell Tree” is still days away from a deadline to be moved, however. The Austin Heritage Tree Foundation is raising money to move the tree, but still needs thousands of dollars. “We have high expectations and hopes we’ll meet that goal,” Michael Fossum with the foundation says.

Original story: More than a thousand people a day are moving to Texas, and they have needs: Homes. Water. And roads. It’s that last bit where a unique part of Texas history and beauty is under threat from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Dug Begley of the Houston Chronicle has the story:

“Four of 10 trees on land owned by Regina McCurdy’s family for almost 150 years – oak trees estimated to be 200 to 300 years old and rare for this flat patch of Texas – are about to be cut down because transportation officials say they need to build a bypass around Snook, population 511 as of the 2010 census. The town is a few miles southwest of College Station.”

A similar battle is taking place in Austin, where a 130-year old Heritage Live Oak, known to locals as the “Taco Bell Tree,” is weeks away from potentially being cut down by TxDOT to expand an intersection. The Austin Heritage Tree Foundation has until March 17 to begin moving the tree, but needs to raise thousands more dollars first

The "Taco Bell Tree," a 130-year old Live Oak in Austin, is weeks away from being demolished in order to expand an intersection.

Courtesy of Austin Heritage Tree Foundation

The "Taco Bell Tree," a 130-year old Live Oak in Austin, is weeks away from being demolished in order to expand an intersection.

“It takes at least 75 years, maybe more to grow a heritage tree, so it’s very important that we preserve these trees, for all the benefits they provide and also for their aesthetics,” Michael Fossum, head of the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation, told KUT News.

According to a Facebook group dedicated to saving the Snook trees, Save The 500 Year Old Live Oak, construction on the road project, possibly leading to the demolition of the trees, is set to begin April 1. “[P]ut simply, the route could be changed as small as 1 degree, straightening out the new path; preserving these ancient icons,” the group writes on its Facebook page. “What happened when the Treaty Oak in Austin was poisoned? Where’s the difference here?”

“The oaks were here long before the family’s G6 cattle brand, and probably before white settlers laid eyes on the field,” Begley of the Chronicle writes. “One of the trees, marked by TxDOT with a dab of orange paint, bears some traits of Native American trail trees, which were bent as saplings to point out turns in the path.” TxDOT tells the Chronicle that the path they chose is the best one.

The family that owns the land in Snook isn’t asking to stop the road project, merely to re-route it. An online petition asking TxDOT to do just that currently has nearly 43,000 signatures.

Definitely read the Houston Chronicle article for more on this story.


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