Hundreds of Montrose community members have signed a petition to save the oak trees that are in danger of being cut down for road upgrades.
The first phase of the Montrose Boulevard Improvements Project will go from Allen Parkway to Clay Street. Jonna Hitchcock started the petition and said more than 60 near-century-old oak trees would be removed as part of an effort to widen sidewalks in the area.
"Nobody's against making improvements," Hitchcock said. "But it wasn't until this week that the true impact of this project became apparent."
Hitchcock said she found out during a community meeting on Monday. Another resident of the Montrose area, Dr. Stephen Cook, said he had no idea about the project until earlier this week.
"I want the project organizers, [Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone], to delay the project so that our neighbors here, we have time to first find out about the project and then give our feedback," he said.
Cook said Houston is in an urban heat island.
"The number one way I could think of to make an area more desirable, more walkable, more pedestrian-friendly, would be to preserve the canopy that we have," he said.
The Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) said in a statement that there were four community meetings on the project and they'll continue to update the community in the future.
"The Montrose TIRZ and the project team have carefully considered and incorporated several improvements to the project design as a result of public comments, including a shared use path to accommodate bicycle traffic, improved pedestrian safety for signalized and closed median intersections, public art, as well as preservation of many healthy trees and additional tree plantings along the project corridor," they said.
However, Cook was concerned that the new trees Montrose TIRZ would plant would take years to provide the shade current trees provide, and might not last through a winter freeze as well as the oak ones would.
"From my understanding, a lot of those saplings are going to be cypress," Cook said. "Which, if you know trees, those are very susceptible to freeze. ... A couple of years ago, we had the freeze that killed a lot of our trees. It's unlikely that these saplings would survive."
Cook is referring to Winter Storm Uri, which left millions without power and led to hundreds of deaths.
"Further, cypress don't really give the kind of canopy that you'd get from a live oak, like we have now," Cook said.
Jonna Hitchcock said she and other residents like Cook are working to voice their opinions in other ways aside from the petition, like a protest on October 1, because she said Montrose TIRZ is only open for public comment until October 18.
"That's why we're moving so fast on this, we cannot afford to be told, ‘oh sorry, your input was too late for us to make changes'," Hitchcock said.