St. Augustine community fights to save 200-year-old oak tree

Developer who owns lot looks to build home where tree stands

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Neighbors in one St. Augustine community are fighting to keep a piece of history alive, and prevent a new home from taking its place.

Residents are looking to save a 200-year-old oak tree, located in the Mission Trace area off State Road 16.

The developer who owns the lot said the tree needs to go to make room for a new house he plans to build, which has the neighborhood divided.

Not only is the tree beautiful, but the people who live in the neighborhood said they love it very much. They said it's been there for generations and the last thing they want to see is something happen to it.

The tree stands more than 50-feet tall, survived two centuries and it could be in danger of being cut down.

Linda Bevon lives next door to the tree and she's been working to make sure it doesn't get cut down.

"It'd really break my heart to see something this historic, this old, and it grows," said Bevan. "It's not just built, it's grown. It would be very sad to see it go."

St. Johns County said last week, Lennar Homes submitted a site plan to build the house, but didn't show the tree as part of that plan. They said they returned that plan, requesting a new one, this time showing the tree as part of the plan. Plus, an evaluation from a tree expert.

Chuck Lippi is a certified arborist who has looked at the tree in the past and says it is in good condition to stay.

"Health and structure are two different things," said Lippi. "The tree has good health and structurally it's in good condition, too. So there's no reason to take it out because it's defective."

Those in the neighborhood said they don't have a problem with the idea of a new home being built. They've suggested that the home be built closer to the front lot line.

Next week, neighbors plan to have a "rally" in support of the tree.

Bevon said she and her family have had many great memories at this spot. She said she'll do anything to keep it.

"My grandchildren have enjoyed being under the tree," said Bevan. "We look at the tree at breakfast every morning, but it's not about us. It's about the tree and the community."

The meeting is scheduled to take place next Wednesday night under the oak tree. The hope is to gain more support and hopefully make a difference.

Channel 4 reached out to Lennar for comment, but calls have not been returned.

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