PORTALES, N.M. (KRQE) – There’s some controversy brewing between the City of Portales and some residents over trees.
Public works employees chopped down more than 20 of the Portales cemetery’s oldest elm trees Wednesday because the city thought they were dead.
“They weren’t dead by a long shot,” said Tree Doctor Steve Thomas.
Thomas says all but one of the trees that were cut down were alive.
“As they were chopping them down, green leaves were crashing to the ground and it was really heartbreaking,” said Micah Thompson.
Thompson drove by Wednesday morning as crews were whacking away at the 90-year-old bark.
“I was just devastated,” said Thompson. “I felt sick to my stomach because the trees are a beautiful reminder of the past.”
Thompson, who has lived in Portales almost all her life and has family members buried at the local cemetery, is now spear-heading a campaign to stop the city from cutting down anymore trees.
“I think the cemetery is important for a city. Our loved ones are there. I think we owe a beautiful resting place to them,” she said.
The city says it chopped the trees because they looked diseased and dead.
They say they’re taking the citizens requests seriously and have stopped chopping.
They’ve brought in a tree specialist to inspect the cemetery’s plants.
“We’ve stopped everything until this Tree Doctor can come back and give us a course of action that we might consider taking,” said Public Works Director John DeSha.
According to a Portales City Ordinance, the city manager is allowed to cut down any tree that’s on city property.
As for the rest of the trees at the cemetery, they’re in OK shape, but the Tree Doctor says they need extra care to live a lot longer.