BAIRD, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Two years after a Callahan County bond was approved by voters, county and Baird residents now say they feel deceived. Why? Long-standing pecan trees in front of the Callahan County Courthouse were cut down, as the county said was in a 2020 bond proposal to restore the building.
Linda Stratton told KTAB/KRBC she and her husband saw the trees being hewed on the morning of Veterans Day last Friday, as they drove through Baird, “Within three hours, they were all gone.”
Being a five-year resident of Baird, Stratton said she’s seen how important these trees were to the town and its people.
“They’re historic trees,” Stratton said. “They were beautiful trees, and they’re the state tree of Texas.”
In agreement with Stratton’s dismay, other Callahan County residents have taken to Facebook to voice their concerns. Many have said they were all for restoring the courthouse, but also said they weren’t aware that the trees would be cut down.
Stratton said she often enjoys seeing townspeople picking up pecans that have fallen from the trees, and she’s going to miss that sight.
Justice of the Peace for Callahan County Precinct 3, Steve Odom, told KTAB/KRBC he was in understanding as to why people would be upset about the trees coming down, but this is all a part of a process to restore the courthouse.
“Oh, it’s going to look beautiful. People are going to be really proud of it, I think,” JP Odom assured.
JP Odom said the information was, indeed, written in public documents made available before the election two years earlier. He said plans were shown and the committee even held multiple public hearings to answer questions ahead of the vote.
The historical commission, according to JP Odom, requires the project team to keep the historic integrity of the original courthouse.
“The original pictures and everything show no trees, but we have had problems with the trees also,” said JP Odom. “There have been some disease, and some trees needed to be taken out.”
JP Odom also explained that sidewalk damage has been a result of roots of the trees growing in, creating a safety hazard by tripping passersby as they walk.
Take a look at the Callahan County Courthouse through the years, courtesy of The Portal to Texas History:
With all the explanations from the project team, concerned residents like Stratton have still been left with questions.
“I want a public hearing, and for those people to stand up and say, ‘we did it and here’s why we did it,’ and let us talk to them,” Stratton advocated on behalf of her neighbors.
Stratton said she’s reached out to the commissioner’s office to question the committee in charge of this project, and said they would not answer her. However, JP Odom gave us the names immediately, and they are as follows:
- Jan Windham, County Treasurer
- Sandra Rose
- Sam Goldsmith
- Steve Odom, County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3
As someone who is a part of the committee, JP Odom said the trees will be replaced with light poles, as the original courthouse had.