By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
The city has put a halt to cutting down ailing, 90-year-old elm trees at the Portales Cemetery after a group of concerned citizens interested in preserving them brought in an expert to show city officials the trees are salvageable.
Portales business owner Micah Thompson said preserving the past is a large part of ensuring the future.
That’s why she felt compelled to intervene when she saw the 40-foot trees that rim the cemetery being cut down earlier this week while driving on Third Street.
“When I saw the trees coming down, it just made me sick,” Thompson said, prompting her to contact a few city councilors. “The trees have green buds on them. They aren’t dead.”
As of Wednesday, only a few trees were cut down to the stump. There are nearly 100 trees leftover that the city now plans to rehab.
Public Works Director John DeSha said cleaning up the cemetery has been a request of the councilors for the past few years and department employees were cutting the trees down because they appeared to be dead. The tree removal is part of the Park Department’s plan for beautification of the cemetery.
Councilor Keith Thomas feels there was miscommunication in what was meant by “cleaning up” the cemetery.
Thompson and other citizens enlisted the help of tree doctor Steve Thomas of Clovis to show city officials that the trees can be restored.
Steve Thomas said the trees are “definitely savable.”
“They just have to have some help,” he said. “We’ve destroyed 90 years of history … this is a real issue.”
Thomas said there are parasites and fungus in the trees and that they can be remedied with injections.
“We give them shots just like people,” Steve Thomas said.
Thompson said after Wednesday’s meeting, she hopes the city will provide information about what’s going on in public places, such as the parks and cemetery, so that citizens can have input and let their representatives speak for them, adding she never saw anything in regard to the trees on the city council agenda.
“Hopefully we can work together to not make this mistake in the future,” Thompson said.
City Manager Doug Redmond said the city will meet with the group of citizens to talk about other improvements they’d wish to see at the cemetery while also meeting with Thomas to save the trees.
“I’m very glad we can save these 90-year-old trees,” Redmond said.