Long-time resident Steve Missildine loved sitting in his home office, the room shaded by the Water Oak outside he used to climb as a kid. The tree, however, like his childhood, is gone forever – removed without notice by the city of Palestine.
Without asking or informing the Missildines, a contractor for the city took most of the 100-year-old tree Thursday, before Missildine's wife could rush back to the house, after a neighbor notified her, and tell the workers to stop.
By then, a chipper had shredded most of the 80-foot Oak, leaving it looking pitiful, forlorn, and naked.
Missildine, a 72-year-old retired insurance executive, was mortified. The next day, he asked city Public Works Director Tim Perry how the city could do this.
Perry said workers hired by the city knocked on Missildine's door. By law, he said, that's more than they had to do.
“City ordinance says if the right-of-way is 50 feet, the city can remove a tree it deems dangerous at half that distance, with no prior notification,” Perry told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “The tree was within 25 feet.”
Perry had inspected the tree and determined it was a threat to fall.
No so, said arborist Buster Robinson, district forester for Texas A&M Forest Service.
“The root buttresses [wide roots that prevent a tree from falling] were in decent shape,” Robinson said. “Any tree that age is going to have scars, but I saw no reason to assume there was a threat it would come down.”
Perry said he saw some rotten and hollow spots on the tree's bottom.
“We thought it best to remove the tree now, rather than after it fell on the house, or on the church across the street,” Perry said.
Missildine was at a Rotary Club breakfast in Tyler when he received a call from his wife, Wyma, about the tree.
“If a resident has a brush pile, or an abandoned vehicle in the yard, city code enforcement notifies them,” he said. “In this age of communication, there's no reason to have not notified us.”
Making matters worse, a May 25 storm toppled a large, 150-year-old Oak from Missildine's property on 418 Coronaca Street. The two trees stood together.
A nostalgic man, Missildine's home, where he spent his childhood, is filled with memories. The loss of one tree to a storm was hard to take, but the destruction of the remaining one by the city was devastating.
“I'm sick about it,” he said, thumbing through photos of the tree-that-was. “I don't think I will ever be whole again.
“Most cities love trees. If you build, city ordinances even require trees be planted. There are so many ways this doesn't make sense to me.”
Nothing can make up for the loss, Missildine said. However, if the city were to plant two 20-foot trees on the property, as sort of an amends for the destruction of the goliath, that would be a fair start.
“Of course, it will never replace what was lost,” he said. “It won't shade the house in the summer, but it will beautify the property, and replace some of the value the property lost.”
Missildine said he holds no animosity towards city workers, who he says work hard at difficult jobs.
“This was a tremendous error in judgement,” he said. “It makes one wonder, though, where the rights of the homeowner end, when the city can do something like this.
“If the city were truly concerned about damage to homes and buildings, it would work on fixing the drainage issues that are causing all of these problems.”