Tree removal at Memorial Park ignites concern | News

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Tree removal at Memorial Park ignites concern
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A well-attended boating event has yielded concerns among people in the Riverside neighborhood.

"All of a sudden there were two trucks out here cutting down this tree," said resident Alyce Adkins.

Adkins shared with First Coast News photos that she took of city crews tearing down a historic live oak near the waterfront. The photos show orange "X" marks spray painted onto the tree's bark.

Adkins said, "My first thought was they were going to have a boat race here in June, and this is one of the only places they could put stands."

Adkins wrote a letter to the city asking why the tree was being removed. She and others said they were baffled because they all believed it was healthy.

"No one I deal with thought there was anything drastically wrong with the tree," said Bobby Arnold, the head of landscaping and grounds for the Memorial Park Association.

Arnold said the group paid $4,000 to have a local arborist identify which trees in the park were old, dying and dangerous.

"He said that one of the trees was a hazard. And if you understand the meaning of that word, it's a danger to everyone who walks underneath it," she said.

Arnold told FCN the association informed the city of one tree in particular they believed needed to be removed immediately.

The tree is located in the second to last row of the park near a sidewalk. It has hardly any leaves left and several branches have already been cut down.

Arnold said, "It has a beetle. Some kind of beetle that causes disease in live oaks."

She said the association never raised a red flag about the tree the city cut down ahead of a big powerboat race. The race used the location of the former tree as a place for spectators to gather and watch.

"Whether they cut it down for the bleachers, I don't know. I just think it was very coincidental," Adkins said.

As for the other tree, the association believes it still poses a great threat. It worries what might happen if it doesn't come down.

Debbie Delgado, a public communications officer with the City of Jacksonville, told FCN the city did not make a mistake.

Delgado said the second tree the association referenced is only a "candidate" for removal. FCN asked Delgado for an official assessment of the trees to show how these decisions are being reached.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no response has been received.

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