The Beat: Save the (blooming) trees?

Over my dead body? Clare Hanrahan chained herself to a blooming Bradford pear tree in downtown Asheville to prevent it from being cut down. photo by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt

Downtown Asheville was abuzz on March 29 — literally. Loud saws and other heavy equipment were used to remove several trees in the central business district, including a row of Bradford pears on Battery Park Avenue in front of the Haywood Park Hotel. Although they were in full spring bloom, the trees were distressed and in the process of dying, posing a danger to residents, according to a city statement.

“People planted Bradford pears because they are attractive when they bloom and they are urban tolerant,” said City Arborist David Foster. “It wasn’t until they began falling apart 15 or 20 years later that people realized it wasn’t such a good idea.”

But that explanation didn't sit well with Clare Hanrahan, who bound herself to one of the trees with a bike lock.

“Just look at [the trees] … it’s the fullness of spring and whatever their argument for cutting them, they could have waited to cut them down. I don’t want to see these trees come down without a ritual or acknowledgment, honoring their beauty. We have to do what our hearts call us to do," she said.

According to the online post, "Goodbye to Some Downtown Trees," Xpress reported that, eventually, she got her way.

"After many minutes of compromise back and forth facilitated by the Asheville Police Department, it was decided that the work crew would not remove the tree (Bradford pear) until it had finished blooming. In return, Ms. Hanrahan voluntarily removed her bicycle chain which had locked her to the tree and left the area," read a statement from the APD.

"It should be noted that when responding officers gave Ms. Hanrahan her options, she was not opposed to jail and has spent time in federal prison for trespassing on a military base," it continued.

Meanwhile, local photographer Jerry Nelson was aboard a SouthWings flight, photographing the Sandy Mush community of northwest Buncombe County as part of a Nuclear Information and Resource Service study. SouthWings is a local aerial education program involved with conservation efforts across the Southeast. The Nuclear Information and Resource Service is a networking center for citizens and environmental activists concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy.

"The Sandy Mush area was suggested as a possible repository for nuclear waste 30 years ago, and more recently, with the recent closure of Yucca Mountain out West, some local residents are asking, 'Is Sandy Mush back on the table for discussion?'" according to the Xpress online post, "Jerry Nelson's Morning View: Sandy Mush."

In other news, Xpress reported in the online post "Google This," that Kansas City will be the first city to receive the search-engine giant's experimental high-speed Internet network. Asheville and more than 1,000 other communities across the country also bid for the service in a competitive, vote-based poll.

Garnering the support of many city, county and business leaders who said the service would be a huge boon to the area’s economy, last spring’s local grassroots campaign included an Asheville City Council-endorsed “Google Moment” to encourage citizens to nominate the town.

All hope is not lost, however. In a statement, Google added, “We’ll also be looking closely at ways to bring ultra high-speed Internet to other cities across the country.”

In local politics, Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell announced that he'll run for Rep. Heath Shuler‘s congressional seat in 2012 — as an independent.

Coming just two days after Bothwell withdrew from the race for chair of the Buncombe County Democratic Party, Bothwell posted a link on the Scrutiny Hooligans political blog pointing to his new campaign website,

“This decision was jump-started by recent events in both the Buncombe County Democratic Party and Congress," he wrote. "The election is more than 18 months away, but it will take that kind of time to build a viable grassroots campaign across the 13 counties of Western North Carolina. Position statements, organizing information and all the rest will be posted here in coming days."


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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