First there was Save the Rock; now there’s Save the Trees.

The Dallas Historic Tree Coalition formed to help preserve about 30 trees on the Presbyterian Hospital grounds, at Greenville and Walnut Hill, and other trees in the Dallas area..

You might of heard about the tree predicament at Presbyterian. Here’s the story in a nutshell: the hospital wants to put a new power plant where their day care center is located. It also happens to be where several old, large trees are located.

During a day care center expansion six years ago, great efforts were taken to minimize damage to the trees. They were even made a part of the day care’s playground.

But since then, Presbyterian has outgrown its current power plant and, according to Ann Harper, director of media relations for the hospital, the best place to build the new power plant is the day care site. It is closest to underground hookups with outside utility services.

Hospital officials say it is more cost efficient to build the power plant on the nearest site to these hookups. Using another location would mean more expense in constructing longer tunnels.

The threat of cutting down the trees has raised concern in environmentalists and some employees at the hospital. Some of the trees are old-growth relics and the larger ones are between 70 and 80 feet tall. There’s an elm with a trunk more than 12 feet in diameter and some bur oaks that are more than 10 feet around. The spread of one tree’s crown is between 125 to 150 feet across.

A small oak removed during the day care extension was determined to be 96 years old, so it is believed that some trees are at least 125 years old.

These aren’t just trees, they are treasures and they are in jeopardy. Studies, which have been published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology and the New York Times, have shown that hospital patients who see trees and other plants from their windows need less medication, recover faster, and leave the hospital sooner. A view of nature has far more therapeutic value than a parking lot or another building. Most of the rooms on the back side of Presbyterian’s hospitals face these trees. The rooms on the front side look out over the trees on the from lawn.

The Coalition received a letter from a former cancer patient who confided that seeing the trees from his room were a reminder that life goes on. Surely the trees’ recuperative effect on patients can be seen as another way of keeping health care costs down.

The trees’ fate is on hold while alternatives are sought. The Dallas Historic Tree Coalition wants Presbyterian, who, ironically, uses a tree for its logo, to find another location for the power plant.

The Coalition consists of concerned citizens, including doctors, arborists and others with horticultural and environmental interests. Coalition members say they understand Presbyterian’s problem and want to help find an alternative. But, they feel this “is a moral issue that goes far beyond money.” Representatives from both organizations have been meeting to try to find a compromise.

You can join the Coalition for a $5 membership fee; call the Coalition’s office at 653-2276. You will receive information about where to send letters concerning the trees and other ways you can help.

The membership roster will also demonstrate to Presbyterian just how many people are concerned about this situation. The Coalition would also like to hear from neighborhood associations and businesses in the hospital’s area who oppose the destruction of these trees.

WHOLE FOODS SUPPORTS THE ROCK:

Whole Foods Market will donate five percent of its gross proceeds ofone day to the Friends of White Rock Lake. Shop at any Whole Foods location on May 10 and be a part of this benevolent gesture. Closest locations are: 2218 Greenville Avenue at Belmont and at Skillman at Kingsley.