Profits Over Trees in Kirkwood, as Ancient Trees to be Cut Down
The nutrient-rich old growth topsoil has already been bulldozed up and next the trees will be cut down, barring a miracle.
The developer, Reid Knox, has no plans to save any of the trees, not even one very old and large white oak that is listed with Trees Atlanta’s Champion Tree database.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the Champion White Oak is the largest in the county with some estimates putting the tree around 300 years old.
White Oak is a specific type of oak tree. Replanting new trees on the 2.5 acre site cannot replace those white oaks because they grow very slowly and can live up to 800 years.
The Kirkwood White Oaks have survived tornadoes, and General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Atlanta in 1864, but they may not survive developers without stronger laws to protect large existing historic trees.
State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) and State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) spoke out in favor of stronger tree ordinance at a recent press conference to save the rare old white oaks.
The neighborhood is divided on what to do with the site and emotions run high on both sides.
A two week petition drive got over three hundred signatures and pledges of five thousand dollars to help create a nature education park on that site for future generations.
“We stopped collecting signatures because Councilmember Natalyn Archibong (District 5), who can outreach to parks, said that was enough for her to move forward,” Kathryn Kolb, an Eastlake neighbor with Atlanta Protects Trees, told APN. Kolb lives approximately one mile from the site.
According to Kolb, the City of Atlanta is prepared to enter into a discussion with the developer to see what is possible, but the developer did not return their calls.
Atlanta Progressive News (APN) reached out to one pro-development resident who lives next to the property; however, he did not want to comment.
Opponents of the development point to the fact that the developer had options like using conservation zoning or building smaller houses on Norwood Avenue and saving the trees in the back of the property.
“They had a lot of options and the developer chose the most destructive option possible to maximize the square footage of the houses and completely remove the trees,” Kolb said.
As the value of real estate goes up in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods like Kirkwood, developers just cut down large older trees and pay a fine, which they chalk it up to the cost of doing business.
Kirkwood is a very diverse community with small to medium size homes, with a few larger historic homes. Currently, the area is going in the direction of gentrification and becoming more affluent.
“Homes need to coexist with the natural environment and they don’t have to take up every square inch of the property. There is nothing wrong with living in a modest home, everything does not have to be oversized,” a long time Kirkwood resident who wants to remain anonymous, told APN.
“The developer pre-sold the lots on a contingency that the trees be cut down and that should be illegal… The developer is externalizing the resources of the community and City for a profit,” Melanie Bass Pollard, Director, Atlanta Protects Trees, told APN.
A proposed detention pond will be managed by a homeowner association (HOA).
“If the detention pond floods, all the homes that are downhill will have to go to court to claim damages,” Pollard said.
The true cost of losing so many trees includes stormwater management problems, heat island effects, and more respiratory and asthma problems, especially in children.
Trees clean the air, manage water runoff, improve the soil, provide shade, and reduce noise.
“Those trees are an irreplaceable public resource taken from the community and the City for personal profit by developers who don’t even live in Georgia,” Pollard said.