I f our community responded as swiftly as it did Monday to all crises what a thing of beauty it would be. For the first time in a long time there was unanimous support on social media to a hot topic.
In this case that topic was the chopping down of “Big Ross” – a beloved landmark of an oak tree in Rossville. For those who travel FM 2504 and FM 476 in Rossville this phrase, “Turn right at the ‘t’ by the big oak tree” is a familiar one. “Big Ross” is such a landmark that it has its own GPS coordinates used by emergency care flights.
Atascosa County is not known to be a community of tree huggers but don’t mess with our live oaks.
A citizen’s question to Commissioner Stuart Knowlton, Precinct 2 about the current pending TxDOT construction in Rossville raised the future of the oak tree. Knowlton called TxDOT to check on the tree. Yes, he was told, in fact the tree will be gone tomorrow. Knowlton informed them that decision will not sit well with his constituents and said I am posting your number to Facebook with this information. That is exactly what he did. The citizens took it from there and boy, oh, boy were their voices heard loud and clear. Cleo Vargas the loved and trusted administrator of the Facebook page What’s Up Poteet, the Pleasanton Express, Shayleigh Uribe and Katie Boggs and several hundred others shared the message to call TxDOT listing their number. Calls were made to TxDOT local, San Antonio and Austin offices. Calls were made to Rep. Ryan Guillen’s office.
The Pleasanton Express was told by TxDOT that they had been flooded with calls. Commissioner Knowlton was the first to receive word back that the tree was safe for now. Knowlton gives all the credit to the citizens for making sure that the landmark lived.
Rep. Guillen said that he was encouraged to have witnessed how the folks of the Rossville area quickly came together as a community in common cause to save this historic landmark. Rep. Guillen was told by TxDOT that the historical significance of this tree did not come up in their environmental study. But those historical values would be considered for its future. Shaleigh Uribe plans to ensure that the history of “Big Ross” is documented. She has started a Facebook group called “Save Big Ross Oak Tree” and is encouraging anyone who has historical knowledge of the tree to join and share the information. She started the page on Tuesday, and by lunch time had 700 members.
Katie Boggs organized a gathering to show support for “Big Ross” on Tuesday morning even though it was saved. Rossville may have witnessed its very first tree huggers at that event. Boggs said that nine years ago, she had no idea that the big oak tree she drove by was a landmark until the sheriff’s office brought it up to her after she reported a robbery. She said over the next eight years, she recognized its place as a landmark. Boggs said that it’s just a part of Rossville that looks over all of us and it is a strong tree that needs to maintain its position in the community.
NOEL WILKERSON HOLMES is the Publisher and Managing Editor of the Pleasanton Express. You may reach her at email@example.com.