When I took my regular morning walk in my old neighborhood, I’d pause at this live oak along Sixth Avenue West.
It’s a magnificent tree with mighty limbs draped with Spanish moss that shade the house, the front yard and the street.
Kids climb it. Cats, too.
I’d pause, place a hand on its thick trunk, softly say, “Brother oak,” and continue my walk.
It was an intuitive gesture of respect.
I’ve always admired live oaks, icons of Old Florida.
That’s how I feel when I drive under them heading along Manatee Avenue East every morning.
They’re gatekeepers for our community.
Which is why I couldn’t help noticing a small lot being cleared for construction a few blocks east of Manatee Memorial Hospital.
One roadside live oak was being cut down, as well as another in the back of the lot.
That’s why I’m concerned Manatee County is considering changing a land development code to ban live oaks on new single-family lots smaller than 60-feet wide.
Are we losing sight of the forest for the trees?
These are touchstones of a way of life, a culture.
Many are the times I wish we had a live oak at our house.
On the other hand, I can imagine the problems they might pose.
A live oak’s extensive root system can do a number on sidewalks and driveways, not to mention irrigation systems.
But proper planning would prevent that.
As it stands, county land development code calls for planting a canopy tree within 25 feet of the right of way on lots of all new home developments.
Keep it that way.
I’ve seen some relatively recent subdivisions out in east county with nary a tree in sight and the homes cry out for shade on a hot summer day.
A live oak would look real nice on those front lawns.
They do more than just provide cool cover.
They’re home to tree houses.
You hang tire swings on them.
Romances bloom under them, too.
It reminds me of a south county family who lost their live oak to the widening of Tallevast Road years ago.
Planted in 1960, it grew 80 feet tall and 90 feet across.
Over 40 years the tree witnessed engagements, marriages, birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, family barbecues and plenty of teenage ardor that remained a family secret.
The live oak was like a member of the family.
When it fell, they wept.
If the county enacts a ban on live oaks, it will be a sad day, indeed.
Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL. 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification.