Mobile, Alabama honored Donald Trump on his ostentatious thank you tour in a perplexing way: by chopping down an old-growth tree. A scoreboard just wouldn’t do for the President-elect’s backdrop at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on December 17; oh no, it had to be this magnificent 50 foot tall cedar, felled and then strewn with holiday ornaments.
For Trump’s visit, Mobile officials cut down the tree growing in Public Safety Memorial Park, turning it into a rally backdrop. When locals residing near the park found out the tree was being hacked down simply for a decoration, many were unhappy and reached out to Mayor Sandy Stimpson. One woman said, “…our city parks aren’t Christmas tree farms.” Another resident, Denise Grier, summed up the tragedy in seven words: “Poor tree. Killed for a ridiculous purpose.”
As outcry intensified, Mobile Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said Trump’s team “did not specifically demand anything.” The tree-killing was his idea, he said: “During the stadium preparations, we discussed the President-elect’s theme and message. It was very much Christmas-themed and future of America-focused. I suggested the Christmas tree as a possible backdrop to coincide with this messaging…The world was watching and we needed to do better than the aged and worn out scoreboard behind the President-elect.” These comments came after City Attorney Ricardo Woods said his understanding was that the Trump team had asked for the tree.
Cooper put out an apology on Facebook the day after the rally, accepting responsibility and saying he “became overzealous”. He said, “Going forward, I will be more sensitive to the spectrum of concerns regarding trees.” On Twitter he announced the dead cedar would be repurposed, and that ideas were welcome. The mayor also issued an apology, saying the city was committed to protecting their trees.
Let’s hope the mayor holds to that commitment; this isn’t the first time citizens have objected to the felling of trees in Mobile. In July 2015, nine oak trees were chopped down for a new Hilton Garden Inn; one resident chained herself to a tree in protest.