Kirkwood’s Champion White Oak Unable to be Saved from Developers (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — The three hundred years-old Champion White Oak was the first tree, of forty healthy trees, to be cut down last week at 145 Norwood Avenue in the eclectic Kirkwood community to make room for eleven new homes, on Thursday, October 15, 2015.
A miracle did not happen in time to save the Champion White Oak, but new information may save some of the other trees.
Some older residents and neighbors have reported that the site was once the home of a church and cemetery.
Underneath the canopy of these old white oaks, DeKalb County pioneer families may be buried.
“They need to do a ground penetration over the whole site to make sure there are not graves there before more destruction occurs,” John Waits, a historian and President of Flat Rock Archives, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“Some of the elderly people said there was a cemetery there and when we pulled up a 1928 map it shows a dirt driveway going to where they said a cemetery was,” Waits told APN.
Meanwhile, the major lesson learned from this unfolding drama is that the City of Atlanta’s current tree ordinance does not truly protect historic species of trees, let alone any tree.
All a developer has to do is pay a small fine to cut all the trees down and make a larger profit at the expense of the trees, community, and City.
In front of what could have been a potential educational nature park, friends and neighbors gathered, as a community, to mourn the loss of an irreplaceable natural resource: a resource that charged nothing to absorb the rainwater, to serve as a buffer for noise, and to clean the air so everyone, including children, can breathe better.
In their own way, each person explained some of the reasons why they are upset by this loss.
“The Champion White Oak was valued by Neil Norton, an arborist, at 80,000 dollars and the City of Atlanta sold all forty of the trees for eleven thousand dollars. This is why Atlanta Protects Trees (APT) has formed,” Melanie Bass Pollard, Director of APT, said.
“The property was purchased for under 700,000 dollars and the developer will sell to homebuilders for approximately 2.2 million. The fines for taking all the trees down is between ten to eleven thousand dollars,” Katheryn Kolb, an Eastlake neighbor, told APN.
According to many residents, that destruction was not necessary because there were other options, as reported by APN.
“I’m for urban development, but at the same time the developer has a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the area they are developing,” Wesley Hoffman, a Kirkwood resident, told APN.
Across the street from the site another resident said he was okay with the development, but was unaware and disappointed that all the trees would be cut down.
“Atlanta is the city of trees but we are losing the trees faster than anyone realizes. This is a larger issue for the whole city. We need to become aware of what is around us, what happens five miles from us, and connect to people who care about trees,” Theresa Cromeans, a Morningside Hills resident, said.
APN tried to interview a person who appeared to be in a position of authority on the property. The interview was rejected with hostile threats of arrest.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story erroneously reported that the developer purchased the property for 70,000 dollars; however, the story has been corrected to reflect the amount was approximately 700,000 dollars.