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Sometimes we don’t know what we had until it’s gone. And so it continues — some call it progress, some question it, and some just get annoyed that they were questioned.

Our community let out a collective gasp when the old live oak hammock at Scenic Highway and Interstate 10 — a remnant parcel of the majestic maritime forest that once lined the western edge of Escambia Bay — was cut down for two large stormwater detention ponds. These two forested cloverleafs provided many important functions including stormwater uptake. The newly built ponds do not function as anything other than a holding basin for water.

Many people were outraged that the stand of oaks and pine that protected Carpenter Creek during the April 2014 flood were cut down to make room for a new mattress shop that never seems to have a customer. Those trees, along the southeast corner of Airport Boulevard and Davis Highway, lived in the riparian zone, the transitional area between the upland and the flood plain.

Word on the street was that the city would receive $165,000 from the developer for cutting these trees. A city official indicated they would replant 24 trees. Big deal. What size? Would they be mature and native?

Word on the street was that the money would not stay in District 2, instead would make it into the tree fund coffers, to be spent … however the modified rules are written.

On Sunday mornings we walk different and longer routes than we do during the week, and so we have been watching the old N.B. Cook School on Cervantes and 12th Avenue be demolished. Bit by bit, down it came.

When I moved here, I made it my business to learn about our local environment including trees and their role in our environment. I made it my business to learn about which trees are resilient in high winds and are native to our area; hence we planted strong native species near our home to weather the occasional storms, survive our droughts and provide food for native fauna.

So, my interest was piqued by the signs that appeared last week that stated, “Tree Removal Permit Applied For.” Applied to whom? By whom?

These are the same “signs” that appeared along the southeast corner of Airport and Davis. The city made a good chunk of change on that transaction. What will the city make off this deal?

Come April through September, most motorists who park in public lots will choose a spot in the shade. The trees remaining among the boundary of the city block of rubble include several live oaks, several water and laurel oaks (both of these fast-growing native species are not the same quality, nor as wind resistant as a live oak), several nice, mature Southern Magnolia, a few cedar, and some isolated and stands of pine.

Here’s a challenge to the Publix developer and the city of Pensacola – why not retain these mature, quality, native species, hire a decent arborist to trim them into a balanced shape (use tree fund money) and employ permeable pavers near their base to take up stormwater from our rain events? The local shoppers would enjoy a spot in the shade to park their bikes and their cars. The existing “quality” trees take up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, serve as habitat for wildlife, provide shade, and ultimately belong in our neighborhood, as they provide several important ecosystem services.

It takes 100 years to grow a 100-year-old tree. These trees provide a good head start for this project, and are onsite. Sometimes we don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

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