Filed Under News
Our Beloved Boulevard Defaced
posted by sysrpl on Friday January 23, 2015 10:53 PM

'm keeping this exchange of information archived on my website so that this story will never be buried by other news.

trees before
Photo Credit: Secrets of Cocoa Beach
The TLDR is that our neighborhood was defaced this week when someone, we don't know who, decided to chop down all the iconic palm trees which had lined Banana River Boulevard for more than four decades.

The photograph to the left captures the way our cozy neighborhood boulevard had always looked. Towering iconic palm trees lined the center of the street running from the border of Cape Canaveral to the intersection of state road 520 in Cocoa Beach. Everyone who has ever had the privilege of living in this area came to associate the impressive row of trees running down the center our main thoroughfare with feelings of home and lazy days on the beach.

But something changed this past Monday, when someone decided to cut down every single palm tree which grew in the small median between the north and south traffic on North Banana River Boulevard. These tall trees reached heights of thirty to forty feet more than twenty years ago. Over the course on my forty three years in this area, during all the hurricanes we've endured, not a single tree had ever been knocked down. But now it seems someone decided to remove them all, and we're still not sure who it was.

What follows is a series of the emails I've exchanged with friends who grew up in this area.

Personal note on Sunday January 25, 2015 1:24PM:

The Cocoa Beach Post has picked up on this story with the an article titled "The Cocoa Beach Lumberjack". And while I appreciate all media coverage this neglectful action has spurred, I still don't think we've reach the bottom of the story. Here are some interesting facts we can glean from the article.

One, the residents weren't warned in advance that the trees were going to be removed. Two memos when out to residents before the removal advising them that some trees would be "trimmed" in the area. The memos were unspecific about which trees, and notably they also didn't say trees were going to be removed. A third memo when out advising residents that the trees in the median were being removed, but this was on Tuesday, a full day after the trees were already pulled out of the ground.

Two, the Post speculates that outgoing city manager Bob Majka will eventually assume responsibility for this action, even though he actually might not be the one responsible for the decision to go ahead with the tree removal. Reason being is that Majka at this point has nothing to lose.

Finally, Cocoa Beach mayor Dave Netterstrom acknowledged this controversy yesterday and plans to address the public about it in an upcoming city hall meeting. I personally look forward to hearing the city's explanation on what went wrong and how they're going to fix this problem. I expect they'll have plenty of time before this meeting to circle the wagons absolving any city personnel from blame.

Email on Saturday January 24, 2015 12:43PM:

Here's an update: The trees were cut down by mistake.

FPL did not ask to cut them down, neither did Skip. Public works manager Bob Torres pulled the trigger on this when he mistook Skip's relaying of concerns about trees in residents backyards around power lines, not the trees in the boulevard.

I talked to Bob for a while and he seems to be compounding the confusion. For some reason he also related a bizarre personal story which he though would explain the situation. I'll paraphrase from Bob Torres mouth:
Twenty years ago I owned a home with a grand palm tree in the yard. It was an exotic tree and many people appreciated it. Some even offered to buy it from me for a hefty price, but I always refused. Later I planted an oak tree. The oak tree grew and grew, and eventually overshadowed my great palm. One day someone asked to buy the my great grand palm tree once more, and I thought the time was right to sell, so I sold it.
Yes, and being I am one thousand percent honest with you, Bob Torres actually volunteered that bizarre story directly to me. Take from it what you will, but to me it seems to explain what Bob was thinking, it was time to sell more trees. He said a bit more which has me convinced of this, mostly dealing with what FPL was paying for, but I'll get into that in another email.

Email on Friday January 23, 2015 10:49PM:

Here is an update which might be a powder keg if true. Contrary to everything that was said by city officials over the past two days, it was reported on local FOX News 35 that FPL didn't approach the city asking to remove the trees in Banana River Boulevard median. Instead it was the city of Cocoa Beach that went to FPL asking them to remove the trees. They aired a quote directly from FPL to this effect.

Recalling when I talked to Bob Torres yesterday, he intentionally made it seem as if he couldn't quite remember who broached the subject of removing all the trees first, while trying to deflect blame toward commissioner Skip Williams.

Email on Friday January 23, 2015 11:00AM

So I called Cocoa Beach city commissioner Skip "Residents Matter" Williams this morning. Skip was happy to talk to me and explained that from what he was told, FPL was just going to trim some trees in the area, not "kill" all the trees in the median.

Yesterday when I called Cocoa Beach city works manager Bob Torres (sp?), Bob suggested that the go ahead to cut all the trees in part spurred on in part conversations he had with Skip. Bob claims Skip fielded requests from residents in the area after his recent election, such as one from a Mrs Aliberti on Dorset Drive, to trim trees near the power lines. In my phone conversation with Skip he acknowledged this, but insisted these request were about trees in resident's backyards, and absolutely not about the trees in the median of North Banana River Boulevard. Skip was also ticked off about the whole situation.

In the end I mentioned to Skip that I want two things.

1) Accountability for this screw up. Someone at the city needs a firing.
2) We need some new trees planted, hopefully of the same type they cut down.

It looks like neither of those two things will happen. The median is too thin and as a result our options are very limited as to what can be replanted. Replanting the same variety didn't seem like an idea Skip would entertain.

And a final note, when FPL cut down the trees, they didn't remove the stumps. According to Bob removing the stumps would be too costly, so they are just going to be left there, forever. What a fantastic "finger in your eye" reminder they will be to everyone who lives off North Banana River Boulevard.

Email on Friday January 23, 2015 12:18AM

Some financial genius over at FPL decided that the long term cost of repairing power lines in our neighborhood was more than the cost of cutting down all the trees in the North Banana River Boulevard median.

This is what it used to look like:

Now the median is filled with 1 inch tall tree stumps all the way down the boulevard all the way from 520 down to the cul de sac where I live. The whole boulevard currently looks like a disaster area.

Forget about the fact that none of these trees have ever fallen over in the over 50 years since our housing divisions were first developed. Apparently, the city is claiming these trees were too tall for to have their palm fronds trimmed, so they allowed FPL remove every single tree.

The decision to remove the trees was made very quickly by one or two people at city hall. This was after FPL approached them with an offer to pay the city a cash value for each tree. Or more plainly, the city made some money by selling the rights to cut down the trees.

Oh and lest I forget, notice only went out a few days in advance to the residents who happened to subscribe to Cocoa Beach's news bulletin e-mail list. The resident's aesthetic valuation of the trees in question was never entered into FPL's financial equation.