Alexandria, VA

Plans on cutting down a 150-year-old oak tree at T.C. Williams High School to make way for an expanded concession stand are going forward, with the contractor reportedly cutting down the tree at an undetermined time this month.

Activist Paul Alan Friedman has talked with the contractor, who told him that the tree will be taken down in August.

“The concession stand project is budgeted at $5 million, as I understand it,” Friedman said. “If you can afford to spend five million on a project like this, you can afford to save the tree. We don’t blame the contractor, but this is about putting pressure on the school board to change their approach. It’s the fault of the people making the policy.”

 Over the last several weeks, a small movement has sprouted to save the tree, with a recently launched Change.org petition that garnered more than 1,600 signatures. Additionally, a group of residents are willing to engage in civil disobedience to stall its destruction.

Alexandria City Public Schools, however, said that the tree can not be saved and that when all is said and done that the new facility will include landscaping and 31 newly planted trees.

“We empathize with the members of the community who wish to see the tree remain and worked with the architects right from the beginning to see if this tree could be saved,” ACPS spokeswoman Helen Lloyd told ALXnow. “Unfortunately, it was realized early in this process back in early 2018 that saving the tree was not feasible with the site constraints (square footage, setbacks, contours and storm water management). Construction would occur in the tree’s drip line, damaging roots and compromising the health of the tree.  The plans have shown the removal of the tree since submission in 2018 with additional plantings around the periphery of the development.”

The property around the tree was acquired via urban renewal in the 1960s, and much of it once belonged to the Wood family. Jason Wood, who now lives in the house his father built behind T.C., used to play under the tree as a child.

“What a gorgeous tree,” Wood said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. When you look around this area here with all the rest of this land to put the concession stand somewhere else, they always tend to come into this Black neighborhood and want to put something next right behind someone’s back door.”

Alexandria Living Legend Rosa Byrd attended a recent meeting at the tree and said that the plan for the concession stand should be changed.

“I’m sure they can angle it another way so that don’t have to destroy this tree,” she said.

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Posted by Boyd Walker on Sunday, August 2, 2020

Courtesy photo by Boyd Walker

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