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Granite Shoals eyes protective policy for heritage trees

Live oak in Granite Shoals, Texas

A massive live oak near The Tropical Hideaway condominiums in Granite Shoals. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

After the recent felling of two large live oaks at the Tropical Hideaway condominiums in Granite Shoals, the City Council is researching how to protect other heritage trees from meeting the same fate.

The trees were cut down to make way for a new wastewater treatment plant for the condos and the incoming Granite Pointe subdivision. Mayor Ron Munos, who lives near the downed oaks, opened discussion on a protective policy at the Jan. 23 council meeting. 

The council took no action Tuesday night but agreed that the city’s heritage trees should be protected.

“It’s a shame they had to cut (the large oaks) down,” Munos said. “I’m a big property rights kinda guy, but I thought maybe we should discuss some kind of ordinance that we could have to preserve (our trees).”

Councilor Phil Ort agreed with Munos on both points.

“We want to preserve every 200- to 300-year-old oak tree we have because, obviously, it takes 200 to 300 years for them to get that big,” Ort said. “But as property rights go, this is Texas.” 

Munos referenced the city of Austin’s policy on protecting large trees, which it groups into three protected categories. 

First are trees 19 inches or more in diameter at breast height followed by so-called “heritage” trees, which are 24 inches or more in diameter at breast height. Finally are larger heritage trees, those 30 inches or more in diameter at breast height, that cannot be tampered with without a permit.

Munos and Councilor Steve Hougen agreed that Granite Shoals’ policy need not be as strict as Austin’s but something tamer, if residents wanted it.

Fire Chief Tim Campbell, who is currently acting as interim city manager, recommended the administration and council conduct more research and nail down a definition of what a “heritage” tree is so that work could begin on drafting a policy.

The council unanimously agreed to table the matter so more could be learned before any decision is made.

Live oaks are the most common oak tree found in Granite Shoals, and they can take decades to reach full maturity. It is not uncommon for them to live 200-500 years. The Angel Oak in South Carolina is estimated to be 1,400 years old. Live oaks can grow to be 40-80 feet tall and 60-100 feet wide, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.