Neighbors rally to save tree

Oak tree estimated to be 200 years old, healthy


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – People in one St. Augustine neighborhood are coming together for a community rally Wednesday night. They're fighting to keep a piece of history alive.

The rally is in Mission Trace off State Road 16, where neighbors are fighting Lennar Homes, the developer still building new houses in that subdivision. Their building plans for one lot calls for a 200 year old oak tree to be removed.

The Bevan family moved to St. Augustine three years ago and built a house in Mission Trace.

"We come here because we love the history of St. Augustine and we do a great job in our community of protecting the architecture and the buildings, not so good at protecting the history that has grown here naturally," said Linda Bevan.

Linda Bevan is talking about an oak tree by their home. She said she and her husband specifically chose to build their house on that lot because of it.

"When we chose how to build our house, we flipped it this way so that we could have a good view out into the tree again with the understanding that the tree would be there forever because that builder was committed to saving the tree," said Bevan.

The original builder has left, and Lennar Homes is now developing the subdivision. The company's hope is to build a house in the tree's place. Lennar submitted a site plan to the county, but it's in the process of having to re-submit it with their plans for the tree.

A certified arborist said the tree is healthy and in good condition. It's more than 50 feet tall and it's survived two centuries.

"Imagine what that tree has seen. That tree was here before Florida was a state, that tree may have seen the second settler war you know. Who knows who camped under it or who birthed a child under it… It has four big trunks so it provides loads of protection for birds and for shade and for enjoyment," said Bevan.

People in the neighborhood don't mind a home being built on the lot, but have suggested it be closer to the street so the tree can stay, too.

As a last attempt, they'll meet under the oak Wednesday night, as they've done many times in the past.

"Maybe the positive karma of all the neighborhood's passion will add some strength to our work on behalf of that tree," said Bevan.

When Channel 4's Erica Rakow reached out to Lennar Homes, a spokesperson said they have no comment on the matter.

Bevan said local attorney, Richard Rumrell has offered pro bono legal services and is working with homeowners.