NORMAN — Green space across Norman is destroyed at an alarming rate. Apartment complexes, strip malls and parking lots take the place of trees and fields overnight. Birds and other wildlife are driven out. Recently, the mobile homes disappeared from the Sooner Mobile Home Park and I learned the Park is destined to become yet another Wal Mart, gas station and 179 unit apartment complex and, of course, parking. The 26 acre park opened in 1961. It is filled with trees and is a special haven for birds, squirrels, frogs, butterflies, rabbits, bees and other insects. There is no other green space like it left in inner Norman.
Most of the 339 trees are three stories tall. Some are much taller. They are mature, healthy and at least 50 years old and may be much older. Developers have only marked 29 trees to save. More than half of the trees are 19 inches in diameter (60 inches in circumference) and greater. Two of the largest trees are 180–216 inches in circumference. In Austin, trees this large are classified as Heritage Trees. There is a city ordinance protecting them. They receive enhanced preservation evaluation.
When the city’s Planning Commission met to review the application to rezone the Park last November, it was reported that it went before the Greenbelt Commission, however there was not a quorum so it was moved forward to the Planning Commission. There was discussion about relocating the human residents of the Park, but no one spoke for the trees or birds and other wildlife. Members unanimously approved to rezone.
I called a city councilman and a member of the city’s Tree Board. The councilman said more rooftops (revenue) are needed for streets and sewers. He didn’t acknowledge that urban sprawl destroys green space replacing it with streets and sewer lines leading to more urban sprawl to justify more needed revenue for more street and sewer line repair. The City Council unanimously approved to rezone. The Tree Board member knew nothing about the rezoning of the Park, the planned development and the impending loss of hundreds of trees.