Mayor Briley orders Cherry blossom trees to be removed ‘intact and replanted’ in the city

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — More than 20 cherry blossom trees were going to be removed along First Avenue in Nashville Monday, ahead of the upcoming NFL Draft, but Nashville Mayor David Briley changed those plans. 

The plans were to remove the trees Monday morning from Riverfront Park. They would’ve been turned into mulch and used on trails in Metro Parks.

Mayor Briley said in a statement he informed the NFL and NCVC that the trees were to be removed intact and replanted in the city.

After hearing the public response over the planned cutting of 21 of the 68 ornamental cherry trees at Riverfront Park, I informed the NFL and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. (NCVC) that they will have to remove them intact and replant them in our city. If any are found to be diseased or near death when removed, they will be replaced with new, healthy trees.

The NCVC and NFL will replace the removed trees with 21 new ones, and will also plant 17 more at Riverfront Park in previously vacant and new locations. The NCVC will pay for the relocation and for any sidewalk damage. The NCVC and NFL have also agreed to plant an additional 200 cherry trees for a total of 238 cherry trees planted across the city at fire halls, libraries, parks and in other places to continue to honor our relationship with Japan and long-time partnership with the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Due to the change of plans at Riverfront Park, nothing will happen on Monday.

In a statement to News 2, Board President Noni Nielson said, It seems incredibly short-sighted to cut down trees that took 15+ years to grow for the convenience of a one-time, 48-hour event.

Butch Spyridon, President, and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitor Corp said the trees that will be removed will be replaced.

We met with Metro Parks months ago to relay and discuss the intended removal and replacement of trees for NFL Draft events. Metro Parks staff evaluated and approved. Trees that can be replanted will be. Both the NFL and the NCVC have further committed to donate an additional 100 cherry trees each (200 total) to Metro Parks for the cherry blossom program.  Those trees should be planted and blooming by spring of 2020, said Spyridon in a statement to News 2. 

Even with the promise of a donation, representatives from the Nashville Tree Foundation are asking city leaders to delay the removal of the trees.

A spokesman from Mayor Briley’s office says the NFL needed the 21 trees to be removed to accommodate a stage, a 400-foot structure and other logistical elements that will serve as a focal point for the event.

Ultimately, Metro had to weigh the decision to save these 21 trees against the economic impact of the event, the size of which makes it necessary to build the stage and other structures in question. Last year the NFL Draft had an economic impact on the city of Dallas of $125 million, with $75 million in direct spending. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau expects the impact on Nashville’s economy to be even greater, the statement read. 

Spyridon added, The NFL Draft will be the largest event in the city’s history and will have a significant economic return for Davidson County. The NCVC has been a committed partner with State Parks and Metro Parks on major events, as well as other conservation efforts. We know a beautiful city is vital to attract visitors, and we will continue to work with the city to make sure Nashville remains attractive.

POLL: Do you agree with city’s new plan to remove the cherry blossom trees intact and replant them?

Mayoral candidate John Ray Clemmons also released a statement, saying in part: 

The shortsighted decision by the mayor to clearcut 21 cherry blossom trees at Riverfront Park is yet another example of a lack of strong leadership and an alarming willingness to roll over and erase part of our city’s character. Nashville has also had as many as ten stages in Downtown for CMA Fest, which makes this decision and the need to remove the trees even more perplexing.

Mayor Briley said no action will be taken to remove the trees Monday. 

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