By Carlos Aguilar
West University’s urban forester and a contingent from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department made an informal survey Thursday afternoon of what is destined to become West U’s newest park — and the news was good.
“Two-thirds of the trees should be able to be preserved,” said Urban Forester Craig Koehl. “Fifty percent of the park will have a good canopy – pretty good for an urban park.”
The 15,000 square-foot property is on the northwest corner of Sewanee Avenue and Pittsburg Street and since 1928 was the family home of Jim Hughes. When he died April 1 at the age of 89, he left it to the city for use as a passive park to be named for his mother, Jennie Elizabeth Hughes.
He also left the city $200,000 to fund development of the verdant space.
For imminent safety reasons, Koehl recommended removal of a large water oak tree along a curb on Pittsburg that he said suffered from a lethal fungus, and Parks Director Tim O’Connor agreed removal would be an immediate priority.
Neighbors Annie and Paul Hailes, who watched the visit from across the street, were relieved at that news.
“We’ve noticed through the years every time there’s big wind, limbs have come down off that tree – that tree is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Paul. “It’s a very beautiful tree, but it’s old – it’s ready to go.”
Several other large water oaks and pecan trees around the perimeter of the property appear to be sound, Koehl said, but a few smaller trees, including loquats along the driveway, are in poor shape.
Still, the visit was positive — including an idea from O’Connor. Examining the sizeable burls on the diseased water oak, he was hopeful that they could be removed carefully, cut and polished to turn into a design feature of the new park.
City Council accepted the land and funding as a donation Monday night and approved execution of an agreement to develop the park according to the family’s wishes. West U will take over the property on June 1.