CLEVELAND — Because of a Cleveland woman’s silent defiance, a tree that she planted in 2000 will remain standing, at least for a couple more days. Tammy Layton, who owns a home in Tremont, hugged her Bradford Pear tree tightly Friday as tree trimmers began preliminary work on an upcoming streetscape project on Clark Avenue
As chainsaws and chippers whirled and grinded up and down Clark Avenue near West 12th Street Friday afternoon, Layton stood silently with her arms draped around the tree’s lower branch. She held onto the tree like a mother whose child is going off to college.
She wasn’t letting go.
“I just said, ‘you’re not cutting down this tree. [The tree trimmers] said, ‘I think we are,’” Layton said. “I don’t want the city to cut it down. I’m just a stubborn hillbilly, I guess. We hang on until the bitter end.”
A small army of men in hardhats converged on the Tremont area Friday to begin removing trees growing in the tree lawn along Clark. As part of the upcoming streetscape and beautification project, crews will remove the trees in order install a new water main underneath the roadway. The existing tree lawns will be replaced with brick pavers and new trees will be planted.
However, none of the trees that were removed Friday appeared quite as healthy as the Bradford Pear in front of Layton’s home.
“This tree has emotional meaning to me,” Layton said. “My son and I planted this tree in the 2000 in memory of my parents who passed away. We wanted to celebrate the year 2000 and have something green; a sign of hope that we could watch grow.”
Layton’s tree was one of only two trees in the area east of Clark Avenue and West 12th Street which is surrounded by heavy industry. Now, it’s the only tree.
Her neighbor’s sugar maple tree was the first to come down Friday.
“I cried. It was heartbreaking,” Layton said.
The standoff began early Friday morning after Layton heard from a neighbor Thursday evening that the trees had been marked for removal. After it appeared that Layton was serious about trying to save the tree, officials from ODOT and Tremont West Development Corp. explained to Layton why the tree had been slated to come down.
The officials said in order to connect the water line coming from her home to the water main, crews will need to dig out and remove the lead pipe. Because the main access point is roughly two feet away from Layton’s beloved tree, there was a very good chance that replacing the pipe would compromise the tree’s root system.
As a show of good faith, the ODOT representative told Layton that an arborist from the City of Cleveland would come by and assess the tree next week. Layton said she was understanding of the reasoning for the tree’s possible removal. She was also appreciative of the ODOT representative listening to her concerns.
“I’m sure that it is going to damage the roots but will it be enough damage to kill the tree? I don’t know,” Layton said. “It’s very healthy and it’s given us and the neighbors a lot of pleasure and shade. It’s just a shame to see this tree sacrificed. I don’t think it needs to be.”