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A Man Tried to Cut Down a Beloved Tree in White Rock, but Neighbors Weren't Having It

Published April 2, 2017 By CLAIRE Z. CARDONA


Neighbors in the White Rock area of Dallas stepped in Thursday to stop a man who was spotted taking a chainsaw to a beloved tree. 

A woman passing by saw the man cutting up an old pecan tree in the 900 block of Peavy Road, near Lake Highlands Drive, and loading the wood into a trailer, according to a post from a neighbor on Nextdoor. 

The woman told him what he was doing was illegal and called the police. Seeing what was happening, a man used his car to block in the man's pickup until the police came, the post said. 

The man reportedly told police that he had permission from the city to cut trees downed by the storm, but had no paperwork, according to Nextdoor. 

The man who tried to cut down the tree was detained by police. He was subsequently arrested.

The tree is loved by many in the neighborhood. It's bent at the base and spreads out low to the ground. Some have said the tree is an Indian marker tree, however, there's some debate as to whether the tree meets the qualifications.

An Indian marker tree is one that was purposely bent over as a sapling and was used by American Indians to mark a trail or as a guide, according to the Texas Historic Tree Coalition.

There are only six such trees in the Dallas area, and there's a lengthy research process to qualify a tree as an Indian marker. A tree must go back 146 years and must be officially recognized by the Comanche nation, said Steve Houser with the coalition who chairs the Indian Marker Tree Committee.

People who gathered showed police pictures of the tree from family gatherings and picnics. Another pointed to photos showing it had been low to the ground for decades and was not hurt in the storm, the Nextdoor post said.

One boy touched its branches and said "my tree is hurting," the post said. A little girl put a Band-Aid on a limb to help it get better, D Magazine reported. 

Another neighbor called City Forester Karen Woodard, who tracked down Russell Hooper, a district supervisor for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. Hooper headed right over and valued the tree at a minimum of $10,000, according to the Nextdoor post. 

Police arrested 65-year-old Albert Santos on Thursday evening. He was charged with criminal mischief of more than $2,500. A Facebook page that appeared to belong to Santos indicates he sells firewood. 

Though the horizontal trunk that touched the ground has been cut in two, the tree, which had been vandalized once before, is expected to survive, the Nextdoor post read.

Houser plans to go inspect the tree to see if he can gauge a better age range for it, which may quantify it as a possible marker tree, or rule it out. 

About the author

Ms. Claire Z. Cardona

Ms. Cardona writes for the Dallas Morning News.

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