NOVICE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Driving through the small community of Novice in Coleman County, you’ll be hard pressed to not notice some large oak trees which once stood as a sort of beacon and representation of tranquility. Recently. those old oaks were suddenly cut down. Now, residents are asking “why?”

Raised in Novice, Wanda Motley told KTAB/KRBC her favorite part of town had always been those big old oaks.

“We always knew it was a landmark because, if you go past the oak trees, you’re too far out of Novice. You gotta turn around and come back,” said Motley.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) – Brownwood told KTAB/KRBC crews cut the trees as part of TxDOT’s project to reduce roadway fatalities to zero by the year 2050. To do that, a representative said crews must clear fixed objects, like the Novice oak trees.

Across Coleman County, TxDOT has a goal to clear around 32 trees. However, they said there has been no record of historic trees being removed.

A statement from TxDOT – Brownwood:

There is a rumor TxDOT is cutting down 500 trees. That rumor is not true. TxDOT has a goal to reduce roadway fatalities to zero by the year 2050. One proactive approach TxDOT takes to achieve this goal is clearing fixed objects (i.e., trees) within a specified “clear zone” of our roadways. These fixed objects pose hazards to the traveling public and reduce the likelihood of errant drivers from recovering when veering off the roadway, thus resulting in crashes. The project in Coleman County is seeking to clear about 32 trees within the designated clear zone to maintain sight lines and address safety concerns. There is no knowledge or record of historic trees being removed. 
TxDOT’s number one priority is safety. There hasn’t been a deathless day on Texas roadways since Nov. 7, 2000.  TxDOT is working diligently to end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways (#EndTheStreakTX).  Currently, there are 10.9 fatalities a day on our state roadways.  Last year alone there were 4406 deaths on Texas roadways.  Just one death is too many, for this reason, TxDOT developed the campaign #EndTheStreakTX, asking everyone to do their part to help end these deaths–never drive under the influence or fatigued, make sure to buckle your seat belt (every rider every time), never speed or drive aggressively, and avoid distractions.

Another longtime Novice resident, Troy Elmore, said he remembered the trees as a resting place for his community.

“I think they are probably around 100 years old. People in the community have gathered around these trees forever for whatever purpose,” Elmore volunteered.

Elmore said his concern lies with exactly why the trees needed to be cut down.

“I don’t believe it could be safety,” explained Elmore. “They’re too far off the road to be a safety issue. I mean, if [it] was 20 feet off the road, that’d be one thing. These are 20 yards off the road.”

Although the trees are now removed, Motley said it’s not gone forever.

“I got a piece of it so we will always know that it was there,” Motley added.

Motley told KTAB/KRBC she plans to display the salvaged piece at Novice City Hall. She also wants a local artist to paint oak trees on the piece of wood.