Community Organizer Boyd Walker Calls on Alexandria to ‘Save the Titan Tree’

The oak tree near Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium at T.C. Williams High School (Photo: Steve Gustafson/TheZebra Press)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – In a letter to the editor submitted to The Zebra Press today, activist and community organizer Boyd Walker asks for answers as to why the large oak tree by Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium at T.C. Williams High School is scheduled to be cut down. The full text of that letter follows.

Help Save the Titan Tree!

On October 22, 2019, the Alexandria City Council unanimously declared a climate emergency “recognizing that climate change poses a grave threat to everyone in Alexandria and around the world.” (resolution) The cover of time magazine this month says “One Last Chance, the defining year for Climate Change.” Time Magazine In the article it says:

“We’re standing at a climate crossroads: the world has already warmed 1.1°C since the Industrial Revolution. If we pass 2°C, we risk hitting one or more major tipping points, where the effects of climate change go from advancing gradually to changing dramatically overnight, reshaping the planet.

To ensure that we don’t pass that threshold, we need to cut emissions in half by 2030. Climate change has understandably fallen out of the public eye this year as the coronavirus pandemic rages. Nevertheless, this year, or perhaps this year and next, is likely to be the most pivotal yet in the fight against climate change.”

The City of Alexandria signed on to the Paris Accords and has agreed to try to lower emissions to zero by the year 2050, and to prevent temperature rise above 2%. In order to do this we must reduce carbon in our atmosphere from the current level of about 420ppm to 350ppm. Trees will help us do that.

Yet, in this pivotal year, and at the cusp of careening over a climate clift, from which there is no return, and the danger of other investments like into our waterfront the city has made being washed away, the City and the School Board are about to cut down a very old oak that towers above a future playing field behind TC Williams. How old is this tree? The age is unknown, but it is surely older than TC itself and so has stood witness to the building of the new TC, the building of the old TC, and the tearing down of the neighborhood and Rosenwald Seminary School that stood before this. It is reported to absorb 48 pounds of carbon a year, and produces oxygen which is surely good for athletes, students and neighbors.

Why is it being torn down – when that would release hundreds of years of carbon into our atmosphere, by the way?

It is being torn down, because in the rush to build a new stadium, it is viewed a small x, and so when council members voted for this plan, and neighbors agreed that the concession stand should be moved farther away from their properties, all that was required was to put a small x where this tree stood.

What is proposed to replace the work of this tree are 31 new trees, which will take many years to do the work this one tree is doing right now? Nothing really.

31 trees may benefit us in the very long run, depending upon the types of trees they are, but but we are in a crisis now. Instead of swapping trees, we need to add them to the existing tree to help with carbon capture and oxygen production that will fuel athletes and students’ energy for years to come.

What will it take to save this tree?

It will take political will. The Mayor has said ‘no’, the school superintendent said ‘no’, even though 1,000 people have said ‘yes’ to saving this tree. I don’t want to delay the project, I don’t want to add additional cost. I just want to save this tree for future generations to enjoy, to sit under, to benefit from. I understand the contractor is about to start work, and I don’t want to cause him or her a headache. But right now, I am the Lorax, and I speak for the trees, and I challenge every member of City Council, every member of the School Board, to stand with us, come to Parker Gray Field at 7:30 pm tonight, and you will see that this tree is worth saving, and then you will do the right thing, and make it happen. And don’t be mad if you stay silent, and we say, you didn’t care.

By the way, I went to TC, my sister went to TC, my kid went to TC. This is not a requirement to care about such things as trees, merely a footnote. I also pledge and promise that I am not just fighting for this tree, The Titan Oak, a witness to history, but every tree. I am so glad we have a new arborist, John Marlin, who has been kind enough to look at this tree, and say it appears healthy, and I expect great things from him. Because if this really is a pivotal year, as scientists tell us, then we can not stop at one tree, we must question the need to cut down trees unless absolutely necessary. And I would suggest a yearly goal of at least 1,000 trees planted across the city, because nature has already given us the best way to fight climate change.

Boyd Walker

RELATED: T.C. Oak Tree Scheduled for Removal for New Concession Stand

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