Goodbye to some downtown trees***UPDATED 4:21 p.m.***

UPDATE, 4:21 p.m.

The Asheville Police Department has issued the following statement about Hanrahan’s protest:

On 03-29-11, at approx 1129 hours, the City of Asheville Police Department responded to 1 Battery Park Ave. in downtown Asheville in response to 62 year old, Clare Marie Hanrahan, who had chained herself to a tree that had been selected for removal by City Arborist David Foster.  According to responding officers, Mr. Foster explained to Ms. Hanrahan, that the tree was distressed, dying; and had to be removed, however Ms. Hanrahan was concerned that the tree was currently in bloom and that the city should at least wait until that particular cycle had been completed.

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.

It was determined during the ongoing conversation with Ms. Hanrahan that she also planned to do the same thing at a Magnolia tree at the old Asheville Ford location where a Harris Teeter is planning to be built.  She also said that there was a sycamore tree in the downtown area (that she would not identify), that she was going to chain herself to keep it from being removed.

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.

At 11 a.m., Clare Hanrahan tied herself to one of the pear trees with a bike lock. When asked why she’s fighting for these trees, Hanrahan replied: “Just look at them… 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.”

Compromising with Hanrahan, the city has agreed to leave the two remaining pear trees standing until they have finished blossoming.

BREAKING NEWS: The city of Asheville is removing some trees in the Central Business District, including these Bradford pears in front of the Haywood Park Hotel. Arborist Mark Foster has noted, ““People planted Bradford pears because they are attractive when they bloom and they are urban tolerant.’ Foster says. ‘It wasn’t until they began falling apart 15 or 20 years later that people realized it wasn’t such a good idea.’”

Last year, one of the trees lost a limb when a delivery truck failed to clear the overhanging branches. As stated in a city of Asheville blog about the latest round of tree removal, “Older Bradford pear trees, Foster says, are highly susceptible to broken limbs during storms, and heavier limbs become a hazard if they extend over sidewalks and traffic. And, he says, the trees grow wide canopies that tend to impact buildings like the Haywood Park Hotel, the owners of which agree with Foster’s assessment. [These trees], along with the others being removed, will be replaced with young, stronger and easier to maintain specimens like fruitless sweet gum and Cleveland select pear trees.”

For the full city blog, click here and for the city’s statement, here.


photos by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt


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42 thoughts on “Goodbye to some downtown trees***UPDATED 4:21 p.m.***

  1. James P. Fisher

    Thank you for your lovely Spring blooms,trees. I have worked right across the street from you for 16 Springs and your white blossoms were always a sure sign of life returning to our mountains. Not sure I buy the reason for your demise but it doesn’t matter now. Thanks and goodbye!

  2. ashevillain7

    Are they going to replace all of the trees that have been removed over the years? They have been removing trees gradually since at least 10-15 years ago and I haven’t seen any of them replaced. Granted, I’m sure some of them died or otherwise were damaged. Maybe these trees in front of Haywood Park are more ‘high profile’ or maybe they are removing a higher quantity of trees at this given time so the CoA felt it would be better PR to come out and actually give an explanation? The point is, there are places all over downtown where trees have been removed and not replaced.

    Sorry for the tree-hugger rant but it’s just something I’ve noticed over the years! :)

  3. While I can appreciate Ms. Hanrahan’s resolve…the fact is a Bradford Pear is not a good choice for that environment.

    Whoever was responsible for planting inappropriate trees should be responsible for the replacement. How many of these types of gross screw ups must the taxpayer foot the bill for???

  4. ironhead

    Bone-headedness on top of bone-headedness.

    #1: Somebody thought these trees were a good idea, and a bunch of Somebodies presumably agreed. Who was it? Where are they now?

    #2: The trees are in bloom and looking their best. GREAT time to decide to cut them down! Wait until November, idiots.

  5. Lisa Watters

    A little before Claire unlocked herself from the tree she asked the young busker who had just set shop up across the street with his violin to play a song to honor and say goodbye to the trees. He turned and did so and it was a sweet, sweet moment as people took the time for a moment of silence and acknowledgment.

    The city has agreed not to cut down the two remaining trees until they finish blooming.

    Thank you Claire for inspiring me, at least, to stop for a moment and really acknowledge the ‘life’ of these trees and feel both gratitude and sadness after having worked across the street from them these last eleven years and the joy they put into my heart every spring with their beautiful blossoms.

  6. Bjorn

    Incredible how short sighted this decision is. Why not close the street to delivery vehicles instead? Oh no can’t have beautiful trees in a once thriving downtown. Those trees were part of what was fantastic about being downtown!

  7. Bjorn

    Incredible how short sighted this decision is. Why not close the street to delivery vehicles instead? Oh no can’t have beautiful trees in a once thriving downtown. Those trees were part of what was fantastic about being downtown!

  8. JOHN-C

    Leave them… Their nice and mature now… You can’t replace that… Just keep them pruned… Nice job Clare:^)

  9. LOKEL

    Good lord …. those trees are not even native species, nor are they a good choice for “inner-city” planting(s) because they mature very fast and without proper pruning become weaker with time …..

    I certainly hope the replacement trees are of a size that will prevent folks from just snapping their trunks in two …. or we will never get them to survive.

  10. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Arborists have always known that Bradford Pear trees on city streets are beautiful and cheap but that they have a hazardous downside, namely a “weak crotch” problem.

    So funny that Arborist Foster avoided the professional arboreal term, most likely in order to avoid the inevitable jokes!

  11. I hope that the City of Asheville exercises some intelligence and replaces the full grown trees (which should NEVER have been planted there in the 1st place) with some dwarf trees that won’t grow so big, nor require pruning every few years.

    People just don’t think.

  12. Jim Shura

    I realize it was seven years ago, but those trees survived the hurricane in 2004 quite well.

  13. Generally trees are planted in the fall. This way roots can establish before the spring growing season. Does this mean that the replanting will not be done till fall?

  14. Betty Cloer Wallace

    But who knew they could incite such passion!

    Sap is up in the spring?

  15. native tree-hugger

    I appreciate Ms Hanrahan’s efforts to beautify our environment. However, I’m wondering if she is aware that descendants of city Bradford pear trees are aggressively invading natural, native forests and open areas, displacing native plant communities and disrupting natural succession. Not native to this continent– these trees have the reputation of negative effects on our forest ecosystem. Somehow I can’t envision a mother black bear being able to teach her cub to climb this tree for safety.

  16. Jeff

    Do they plan to plant the new trees in the same holes in the sidewalk where the mature trees were? If so, how do they deal with an underground root structure with nearly the size and volume of what was growing up?

  17. hauntedheadnc

    They’re non-native, they drop branches at the slightest touch, and they reek when they’re in bloom. Why get in a dither to see them go? There are tree species that are so much better suited to a downtown environment…

  18. invisiblefriend

    I like her style, but i kept thinking what would happen if someone tried to steal her bike right in front of her face while shes locked to the tree?

  19. JOHN-C

    Have their been any major problems with the trees… they look healthy and beautiful to me? Their a little weak, So what.

  20. I’m getting ready to completely destroy a huge white pine in my back yard! I’m even going to grind out the roots! Hahahahahahah!

  21. bill smith

    [i]Why not close the street to delivery vehicles instead?[/i]

    What a brilliant proposition!

    Where’s Julia Butterfly Hill when you need her!!??

  22. bill smith

    Whatever respect i used to have for Clare Hanrah and her actions in the past has just be destroyed. Chaining yourself to a fruit-tree that has passed its expected healthy life-span is seriously nutter. Are we running out of real causes? What next, protesting the destruction of the Pink House as being a historical monument?

  23. Jim Donato

    The weakness after time of Bradfords is but one achilles heel for that tree. I’m shocked that none have mentioned the rather repulsive aroma many of them have developed when blossoming. When visiting Athens, GA last year, my companions and I were wondering where the heavy aroma of fried seafood was coming from where ever we were walking downtown. We eventually traced the smell back to the blossoming Bradford Pears! A little research revealed that Bradfords that smelled like that had an evolutionary advantage in cities since they could be widely fertilized by houseflies. Yech.

  24. “Am I the only one who thinks Clare Hanrahan is an idiot?”

    No you’re not…

    Hanrahan strapping herself to a crappy tree is revealing a misplaced sense of concern. The bigger issue is why now, and is good horticultural sense going to prevai? Or do we get yet another repair of a screw up on 10 to 20 years down the road????
    The fact that this wasn’t done last fall leads me to believe another screw up in in the making.

  25. Lisa Watters

    I think there’s a point that is being missed here.
    Yes, the trees were Bradford Pears which were not a good choice for that particular location and yes, they were beginning to be a hazard because of their propensity to break once they reach a certain maturity, but they were alive – ALIVE – living, existing beings. What I gathered from my conversation with Clare was that she just wanted these trees to receive some respect and acknowledgment for the life they had lived and the beauty they had given – instead of being so unceremoniously cut down – and that this could be done partly by letting them finish their blossoming cycle one last time.
    I know this will seem ‘new-agey’ to some people – and that some people think this action by Clare wasn’t about anything truly meaningful – but I would argue that it’s this very disregard for life in all its aspects that is one of the sad truths about our world today.
    Because of Clare’s actions two beautiful trees will live for just a little bit longer and we, the people who work nearby and pass by those particular trees every day, will get to appreciate them and maybe acknowledge them just a little bit longer too. To me that’s worth something.

  26. hanrahan

    Thanks, Lisa for expressing my sentiments so well.
    I listened to the aborist, Mr. Foster, and appreciate his position and his willingness to come out and speak to me about the trees and to allow these trees to finish blooming. While there may be reasonable arguments to replace this species, to cut them in full bloom is an inexcusable affront. They are living beings, not just cityscape furniture. As Lisa said, it is this “very disregard for life in all its aspects that is one of the sad truths about our world today,” and I might add, one of the root causes of wars. As for the updated Mountain Xpress article, I did express concern about the potential destruction of the sycamore and the Merrimon Magnolia, but I did not threaten to chain myself to either tree. Certainly the Merrimon Magnolia deserves our attention and should be preserved. Coven Oldenwilde has a facebook page to bring together folks concerned about Mr. Pack’s magnolia still standing on the grounds of his former home.

  27. Thomas Todd

    While city trees are nice – and I mean trees downtown – they are little more than a pretty backdrop for a near biological desert of invasive city species to cling to. They are not part of wild, natural functional ecosystem (and neither are we as people) but still…while its sweet that Clare would lock herself to the tree, and she does draw attention to tree’s obvious beauty – it is a meaningless action. You may as well protest the death or demise of indoor plants in all the restaurants or houses of the city – a true vegetation genocide if you really want to go there.

    Well meaning – but fully naive. City trees can be easily replaced in as much time as it takes to remove one. If you’ve gonna have pavement, glass, steel and the biological desert that is any city – have all the trees you can put it them – but to get all worked up over the removal of one of them is beyond naive.

  28. bill smith

    [i]to cut them in full bloom is an inexcusable affront. They are living beings, not just cityscape furniture[/i]

    So, these living beings will be touched that their ‘affront’ is postponed until after the humans get to enjoy the pretty flowers?

    [i]one of the root causes of wars[/i]

    You should take a few arboreal courses, ma’am.

  29. bill smith

    When will claire chain herself to the road until they tear it up to liberate the earth beneath?

  30. Clare, thank you for drawing attention to the callous and brutal way we in “Tree City USA” (that’s the flag that flies in front of Asheville’s Public Works building) typically treat our trees.

    * Coven Oldenwilde has indeed started a Facebook-and-postcard campaign to urge Harris Teeter to save the Merrimon Magnolia — see and

    * Montford residents are sick at heart about Health Adventure’s irresponsible clearcutting of a healthy urban forest before they had money in hand to build their project. Now HA is bankrupt and an open scar is all that’s left of those trees. We need to establish zoning regulations that prevent developers from such speculative clearcutting. (City Council elections are coming up soon …)

    * Bill Smith, if you really despise trees so much, perhaps you’d feel more at home in Atlanta, where a vast pine forest has been obliterated by cookie-cutter suburbs (which now stand deserted thanks to the burst housing bubble).

  31. “* Montford residents are sick at heart about Health Adventure’s irresponsible clearcutting of a healthy urban forest before they had money in hand to build their project. Now HA is bankrupt and an open scar is all that’s left of those trees.”

    It’s an in your face example of incredible incompetence….I didn’t think the sign debacle could be beat…but this is by far the worst example of wrong thinking. In reviewing the 990 it looks like Health Adventure spent over $1,000,000 for an architect in 2008. So not only did they clear cut, and do expensive site prep, they also spent a lot of money for plans for a facility they didn’t have the money for. There are some public funds involved in this…but it was other people’s money.

  32. Bjorn

    Nothing quite says Springtime & welcome to Asheville like cutting down trees & stepping in dog poop downtown.

  33. bill smith

    I think the obvious solution is to shut down the road, deconstruct the nearby buildings, and allow these magnificent beings to live their life in peace.

    People cutting down trees are just like Nazis.

  34. haters gon hate

    Say what you will about Claire, the Arborist, or Town Hall, but ritual is important to everyone. We tie big ribbons around newly erected buildings and cut it in a “ceremony.” Why is it so absurd to have a funeral for trees, which, in fact, have a life force. Remember biology class?
    The only difference between Claire’s actions and the actions of The Man, is that The Man’s actions are deemed correct and prudent by society. As an individual acting alone outside of a hivemind, Claire’s actions are deemed ludicrous by society.
    Live and let live/die.
    It is the order of the Tao.

    What I don’t understand, personally, is why it is made so personal.

  35. bill smith

    @haters-Who do you propose should pay for these tree-removing ceremonies?

    Were the trees removed to build your home cut down with such ceremony?

    Are the living plants you eat for your daily bread harvested with such ceremony? Or with the cruel, brutal efficiency of a typical business model?

    Do you offer ceremony to the mosquitoes you kill on a warm spring eve?

    Where is the line drawn, and who gets to draw it?

  36. Bird of Paradise

    Would they consiter chaining themself to the front doors of a abortion clinic or wont they get the attention from the liberal leftists news media who are always listening to these eco-wackos

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