Letters – Reader laments loss of historic tree


To the Editor:
Austin has its Treaty Oak, kept alive by the good will and determination of citizens and government appreciative of history and respectful of really old beings. Caldwell County and Lockhart had, until last week, an equally venerable ancient live oak, a “Renaissance Tree” as the arborist who was there at its death, called it. “Renaissance” because the oak

was “born” during the age of the European Renaissance around 500 years ago.

After 500 years of gracing a ridge top that looks down on the plain where Lockhart grew around the springs of Plum Creek, our Renaissance live oak committed a fatal sin. It failed to shuffle twenty or thirty yards to the south so as to remain out of the way of the right-of-way land of a new highway. Never mind that an intersection of two county roads had simply bent around the Renaissance oak for the past seventy or eighty years. Never mind that a state highway expansion some dozen miles away had simple bent around another clump of large old live oaks some ten years ago. This time, the demands of the mega-contract for the great toll road around Austin said that the Renaissance oak was in the way, and must be removed. So it was.

Not that the tree was actually in the path of the highway. It wasn”t. Rather, it was too close to the path of the same county road that has been there for decades, and will now span the new below-ground level highway with a bridge. Doesn”t matter that the new bridge will be in the same spot as the old road, the tree was said to be too close to be safe. Or something. Go figure. Better yet, go out Clear Fork Road to the top of the ridge, and look.

The healthy 500-year old Renaissance tree, which had stood sentry on its ridge top for over 300 years before anyone but Comanches stood in its shade, was sawed down, and a temporary plastic porta-potty for the highway construction workers was placed on the very spot. Really. The porta-potty IS green, and I suppose one could sit in it and hold the door open and reflectively gaze out on our town; but somehow that won”t be the same as sipping cool water after a hike up the long hill, leaning back against the trunk of the Renaissance Oak, sitting on exposed roots that were three centuries old when George Washington was President, and reflect that you are being cradled in the stout old arms of one of the oldest beings in Texas. What a shame.

Maybe Joni Mitchell did have it pegged in her folk song back in “60”s, “Let”s pave Paradise, and put up a parking lot.”
Phil McBride


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