NFL to pay Metro $10K to cut down 21 cherry blossom trees for NFL Draft, says tree group

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UPDATE: Mayor Briley has announced a compromise of not destroying the trees, full details below.

According to the Nashville Tree Taskforce, the donors of the beautiful cherry blossom trees on 1st Avenue at Riverfront Park downtown were notified Friday the trees would be removed, due to a deal between Metro Nashville & the NFL, which is hosting the draft at the location in late April.

We reached out to several officials late Friday evening when the news broke, but none had responded by Saturday morning when we published. The trees were donated and planted to honor the late Betty Brown, one of the founding members of Nashville Tree Foundation.

In total, 21 trees, ranging from 1-6″ caliper will be removed, starting Monday morning, April 1st. It is not clear exactly who approved this deal with the NFL Draft, as neither we, nor the Nashville Tree Task Force, could locate any approvals from the Metro Parks meeting agendas or minutes, and appears to go against every principle stated Metro Executive Order 40, which Mayor David Briley is choosing to not follow, if this proceeds.

The Nashville Tree Task Force says trees to replace the ones cut will take 5-10 years to grow back to medium size. The Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled to happen in downtown Nashville Saturday, April 13th, and would have featured these trees along the walk, of which Mayor David Briley is currently set to participate in, according to festival organizers.

The Nashville Tree Task Force is asking for citizens to email the Mayor’s office, and City Council members: about the issue. There is a petition here, also.

Rendering for the event appear to show tents in the area where the trees are currently located:

FINAL UPDATE: The Mayor’s office has now reversed course, and provided a new statement:

After hearing the public response over the planned cutting of 21 of the 68 ornamental cherry trees at Riverfront Park, I informed the NFL and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. (NCVC) that they will have to remove them intact and replant them in our city. If any are found to be diseased or near death when removed, they will be replaced with new, healthy trees.

The NCVC and NFL will replace the removed trees with 21 new ones, and will also plant 17 more at Riverfront Park in previously vacant and new locations. The NCVC will pay for the relocation and for any sidewalk damage. The NCVC and NFL have also agreed to plant an additional 200 cherry trees – for a total of 238 cherry trees planted – across the city at fire halls, libraries, parks and in other places to continue to honor our relationship with Japan and long-time partnership with the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Due to the change of plans at Riverfront Park, nothing will happen on Monday.


The Mayor’s office has replied with the statement below, and also denies they have received any payment for replacement of the trees as part of the NFL deal:

Why is it necessary to remove trees at Riverfront Park?

The NFL Draft will be hosted in Nashville on April 25-27, 2019. The NFL indicates that the tree removal is needed to accommodate a stage, a 400-foot structure, and other logistical elements that will serve as a focal point for the event.

Ultimately, Metro had to weigh the decision to save these 21 trees against the economic impact of the event, the size of which makes it necessary to build the stage and other structures in question. Last year the NFL Draft had an economic impact on the city of Dallas of $125 million, with $75 million in direct spending. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau expects the impact on Nashville’s economy to be even greater.

Metro regrets losing these trees, but they will be replaced with a healthier and equally beautiful stand of trees that will better stand the test of time.

Nashville needs trees, especially beautiful, mature cherry trees like those in question, and for that reason Metro fought hard against the idea of taking these trees.

Mayor Briley and Metro Government are committed to increasing the tree canopy of Nashville, and wholeheartedly supports the Root Nashville commitment to plant 500,000 trees in the city. We are looking forward on Earth Day to celebrate the planting of the 5,000th tree since this effort began in October 2018.

How many trees will be removed?

There are 21 trees in all – 10 at the Court of Flags at the foot of Broadway at First Avenue, and 11 bordering a walkway starting at Broadway and going up First Avenue North. Metro regrets losing these trees, but they will be replaced with a healthier and equally beautiful stand of trees that will better stand the test of time.

There are a total of 68 trees in this planting area. Metro will be removing 21 of these.

When will trees be removed from Riverfront Park?

The trees are currently scheduled to be removed on Monday, April 1 at 9:00a CT.

What is happening to the trees after they are removed?

The trees will be turned into mulch and used on trails in other Metro Parks.

Will the trees be replanted?

Yes the trees will be replaced after the event. The NFL will replace each cherry tree that is taken with trees between 2.5” and 3” in diameter. There will be no cost to Metro taxpayers for these new trees. Metro regrets losing these trees, but they will be replaced with a healthier and equally beautiful stand of trees that will better stand the test of time.

Metro will also be replacing a minimum of five trees in the area that are dead, damaged, diseased or are in need of replacement. These are not included in the 21 being removed for the Draft.

The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau will also be donating an additional 12 trees to be planted. That will bring the total number of trees being replanted to 38.

Who is paying for the trees to be replanted?

The cost of replacement trees will be covered by the NFL and CVC. There will be no expense to the city or the Parks Department.

Who approved the tree removal?

When negotiations were beginning for the stage for the NFL Draft and Metro learned that the size of the stage and other structures would require that cherry trees be taken down, Metro advised that keeping those trees was a priority for the city.

Early on, the Mayor’s Office discussed the matter with Metro Parks Horticulturist Randall Lance, who personally planted most of these trees a number of years ago. Mr. Lance indicated that some of the trees in this area have previously died, others are compromised and should be replaced soon, and this is an opportunity to shore up the soil, the grates surrounding the trees and the irrigation system in the area and replant new, healthy trees.

Metro Parks Horticulturist Randall Lantz will coordinate the project and has already ordered replacement trees that will be planted after the NFL event. The replacement trees will range in size from two and a half-inch to three-inch trees, which is an ideal size for establishment of the tree. This project will allow the Parks department to improve poor soil, drainage and water supply issues that have plagued the trees planted at Riverfront Park for many years.

What about Executive Order 40? Did the Metro Tree Review Panel know about this?

Executive Order 40 states:

The Metro Tree Review Panel will be created to review and approve Metro projects and land-management activities on Metropolitan Government properties that include removals of trees over 100 aggregate inches in diameter at breast height, or of any single specimen tree over 30 inches in diameter at breast height. Trees that are dead, diseased, invasive, potentially hazardous, or less than six inches in caliper will not count toward the aggregate total. The Metro Tree Review Panel shall establish replacement standards for removed trees and pursue retention where feasible. These standards will apply to projects across all Metropolitan Government departments and agencies, and for which there is no grading permit or development plan required. This protocol will not apply to areas managed as grasslands or mixed-grass meadows.

The Metro Tree Review Panel is aware of the removal of the trees. Since the trees will be replaced, the aggregate inches will be less than 100 inches in diameter at breast height. Therefore, the Metro Tree Review Panel did not have to approve the removal.

However, the Metro Tree Review Panel has approved the removal and the replacement of the trees.

Are these trees a part of the Betty Brown Tree Trail?

No. None of these trees are a part of the trail.

Will there be additional tree plantings?

We are still working out the details on two additional tree plantings, but we have already announced publically – Mayor’s remarks at Arbor Day – that there will be a Root Nashville tree planting in partnership with the NFL. The NFL routinely sponsors tree plantings to help reduce the environmental impact of the Draft and Super Bowl, and to leave a positive “green” legacy on and around host communities.

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