Neighborhood activists have long held the city’s feet to the fire when it comes to improper tree removal around White Rock Lake. Last Friday, however, the park suffered a significant loss.

A contractor authorized by the parks department mistakenly removed a 170-year-old black willow tree from the Stone Tables area. The tree was one of just four listed on the state registry of champion trees left in the Dallas parks system. In fact, it wasn’t just a champion. It was the champion, the Dallas Morning News reports, measuring 47 feet high high with a trunk girth of 265 inches when it was added to the registry, although decay had since reduced it to an 8-foot-tall trunk.

The parks department announced the news via a press release this afternoon, stating that they are “deeply saddened at the loss … While not a thriving tree due to age and severe wind damage that occurred in October, it provided a habitat to the wildlife at the lake and was a source of pride to Dallas residents.”

The work being done over the weekend was part of the city’s regular maintenance program, which neighbors have criticized in recent months. Remember all the blue X’s? The work involves grinding the tree stumps to “ensure the safety of park patrons.” The contractor outsourced by the parks department was authorized to grind nine tree stumps. The black willow was removed by mistake.

Here’s how the city plans to stop this from happening again:

“The City intends to seek remediation from the contractor, and to prevent this type of occurrence from happening in the future, the department is implementing additional controls for the work performed by the contractor. Specifically, the contractor will secure written permission from DPR for the removal of stumps more than 24 inches in height not already on the approved list. This new procedure will enable better on-site communication between DPR and the contractor to avoid another unfortunate incident like this in the future.”

Editor’s note: The original post has been updated to clarify that decay had already reduced the tree to an 8-foot-tall trunk when it was accidentally removed. 

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