Beloved tree cut down in Santa Fe’s historic downtown

New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Some call it a piece of Santa Fe history, others call it a liability. A cottonwood tree that has been standing for decades was cut down Tuesday.

It brought anger, frustration and even some getting arrested. “This is a disaster. This is something that is a call to war,” Steve Thomas said.

It’s been standing in the Santa Fe Plaza for at least 70 years, maybe even longer. “It’s a very nice shady spot to sit and enjoy a meal or a cocktail,” Santa Fe resident Mark Klapmeier said.

“This tree is a gem in our city,” former Land Use Manager Lisa Martinez said. But now, the owners of the property it stands on are cutting it down because they believe it’s a liability.

“The potential risks, outweigh the benefits at this point,” a city worker said.

In a letter from the city, the Parks Division Director says the trees continue to drop large limbs more frequently. In fact, a branch broke off just last August. “There had been a windstorm, a branch had fallen, pinned a lady,” Martinez said.

Regardless, Steve Thomas, a tree doctor himself, says this tree is healthy and could’ve been saved. “This is the biggest disaster I’ve seen so far,” said Thomas.

Thomas was so upset, he decided to stage a protest, breaking into the barricaded area. “I’m gonna go, get under the tree, if they arrest me they will,” said Thomas.

The project was paused temporarily and Thomas was taken into custody by Santa Fe police. “He cut through our boundary, punched an employee in the face,” the city worker said.

The first request to remove the tree was made in 2015, but the former Land Use Manager, Lisa Martinez, denied the request. The tree is one of three crews will remove.

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