Woman giving up tree vigil
Homeowners group in Piney Point Village feared damage from magnolia's root system

Article Courtesy of Houston Chronicle
May 10, 2002

A woman who chained herself to a magnolia tree in front of her Memorial-area townhome prepared to give up her vigil Friday, saying she had done what she could to prevent its destruction. 

"I tried to make a difference and stop this," said Loretta Shaklee, who started her small act of civil disobedience on Wednesday when she saw crews with chainsaws through her bedroom window. 

She said she would remain at her post through the end of the day Friday, then return to her life. 

The homeowners association at the 179-unit Deerwood development in Piney Point Village said root systems from some of the large magnolia trees scattered around the property were causing structural and drainage system damage. 

The association hired a company to remove 12 of the trees this week, with more to be removed later. 

Delbert Owings, the president of the association's board, said that of the targeted trees, only the one in front of Shaklee's house and one other remained Friday afternoon. 

He said the association had no desire for a confrontation between Shaklee and work crews toting chainsaws. 

"She apparently has a cause," Owings said. "She's our neighbor, and we don't want to do anything harsh." 

Shaklee appeared quite comfortable on a sweltering Friday afternoon, sitting in a lawn chair under the generous shade provided by the magnolia. At her feet were a cell phone, a note pad, a large glass of water and a thick chain she was ready to use if tree-cutters approached. 

Signs posted on the balcony above her read, "Save the trees, honk if you agree." 

Two young men who live in the development asked her if there was anything they could do to help. She suggested they vote to remove the current association board members. 

But Shaklee said she was disappointed at the support she received from other residents. She said one neighbor told her she was crazy and others said they were worried about the costs of repairing the damage that management said the trees were causing. 

"Everybody has been scared by the board," Shaklee said.