Residents rally to save historic Oakville tree

A historic tree in Oakville is endangered because of road construction. Some local residents, including Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff, have asked the Texas Department of Transportion to save the tree if possible.

By Jeff Osborne

Progress staff

OAKVILLE – For centuries a massive oak tree has kept silent watch over the Oakville area, housing numerous birds, more than a few squirrels and also towering over the area around it.

With expansion of FM Road 1358, the tree’s future was in doubt, and the Texas Department of Transportation had indicated that the tree might become a casualty of roadwork.

Thanks to the efforts of a number of area residents, including Laurie Clopton, Robin Wells and Lisa Weber — as well as the intervention of Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff and Live Oak County Precinct 2 Commissioner Donna Mills — the tree will continue to stand as a living monument in the Oakville area.

“I contacted (the transportation department) in Alice and asked them not to have the tree removed,” Mills said. “They have said that it will stay there, and they’ve put a guardrail around it to protect the tree.”

For a community that prides itself on a rich local history, the saving of the tree was welcome news.

Clopton said she was initially told that the tree would be removed during the construction process.

“I contacted Danny Garcia, the landowner, and asked if he knew they planned to remove the tree and he wasn’t aware of that plan,” she said. “He also made a call to the TxDOT office in Alice asking that the tree be preserved.”

Clopton and Wells were among those who posted messages on Facebook and rallied the community to help save the tree.

Transportation department officials were responsive to the wishes of Live Oak County residents, Clopton said.

“The district engineer and inspector were both very helpful and I want to give them credit,” she said. “A lot of people made calls. The TxDOT representatives were at first concerned it might be  safety issue. Then they said it would cost $2,000 to put in a guardrail around the tree. It’s definitely worth it to protect such a beautiful tree.”

Weber said she was thrilled when she learned the tree would be saved.

“I’m so glad they were able to save the tree,” Weber said. “It’s a big part of the history of that area. Indians used to roam there and bandits, and they walked in the shade of that tree.”

Weber said her mom, Marjorie Reagan Bledsoe, is 93, and that the tree is something she has always appreciated.

“It’s really great that they were able to save it,” Weber said. “It would have been a shame if the tree had to be removed because of road construction.”

Mills said the Live Oak County residents’ vocal support of the large tree made a difference and helped the transportation department decide to spare the tree.

“A number of local residents wanted to save this tree,” she said. “It’s been a big tree for all of my 68 years, and we wanted to do all we could to help protect it.”

Mills said it took several weeks before the transportation department responded to her request, but because of the tree’s location, she could only make a recommendation, rather than a decision, about the tree’s fate.

“It was on a state road, so it wasn’t under my jurisdiction,” Mills said. “My crews (for Live Oak County) don’t cut any oak trees – after all, this is Live Oak County. They don’t even trim the trees unless I’m there.”

Clopton said she appreciates the community’s response in saving the tree.

“A lot of people responded and that made a difference,” she said. “A lot of calls were made. It was truly a community effort.”

Mills said she doesn’t know how old the tree is, but estimated it might be 500 years old, considering its towering height.

“The Texas Rangers had a post there for a long time, and I wonder what things the tree has seen,” Mills said.

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or theprogress@mysoutex.com.