Mayor Margo Goodwin looked at the empty esplanade where Highland Park’s historic monarch pecan stood and envisioned old fashion azaleas – lots of low plants to replace the missing tall one.
“We are known for our gardens,” she said. “I’d really see a massive bed.”
Other town council members would prefer to see a replacement tree planted at that key entry point to the town along Armstrong Parkway near Preston Road.
“There’s always been a tree there, and we need to put a tree there,” council member Eric Gambrell said.
But, he added, it doesn’t need to be massive like the one that stood there for 150-plus years, once topping 75-feet by 75-feet.
A smaller tree with the potential to reach impressive size could work well, perhaps surrounded by the mayor’s desired azaleas, Gambrell suggested. “It’s going to be beautiful now and will be beautiful 50 years from now.”
“There’s always been a tree there, and we need to put a tree there.” -Eric Gambrell
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The town removed the one known as The Big Pecan in October after years of discussion and unsuccessful attempts to reverse a decline that had shrunk its canopy and made it a danger to those nearby.
“I think the time was well spent on getting the community to understand,” Goodwin said.
The town also delayed a decision about what to do with the now-vacant space so residents could get accustomed to the tree’s absence and experience the annual Christmas lighting celebration centered on an alternate tree.
A nearby pecan, dubbed the Landmark Tree, was grafted from the famous monarch and planted in 1951. It served for the 2019 lighting celebration, which drew about 500 people.
Protecting that tree is one of the reasons consultants gave in recommending against transplanting another huge tree where the Big Pecan stood.
Landscape architect John Armstrong and Preservation Tree Services arborists didn’t want to see another “mature tree competing with the Landmark Tree for sunlight,” assistant director of town services Kirk Smith reported to the council.
• The potential for old roots, even with stump and root structure removal, rotting and creating air pockets that could damage a new tree’s roots.
• The proximity of the old tree’s location to the “nose” of the esplanade.
“I wouldn’t have planted it there for cars to run into,” Goodwin said.
The town’s Capital Improvements Plan includes $250,000 for landscaping Armstrong Parkway from Preston Road to Douglas Ave. Some of that could go for plantings in the empty esplanade.
The mayor and council members agreed to ask Armstrong and the arborist what they think of planting a smaller tree.
Council member David Dowler suggested the town might consider a more lovely variety than a pecan.
But Goodwin noted the town’s historical connection to the pecan. Civil war veteran Joseph Cole saved the sapling that grew to become a symbol of the town’s resilience.
“There’s something majestic about a huge pecan tree,” she said. “They are very Texas.”