On Air Now    06:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Up Next    07:00 PM - 09:00 PM

New College resumes cutting big trees this morning, despite city’s ‘Stop Order’

Written by on Wednesday, May 29, 2024

But in the afternoon, the City of Sarasota yields.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: May 29, 2024

Host: This morning, work crews hired by New College resumed cutting big slash pines in the Uplands Preserve. They did so even though the City of Sarasota issued a “stop order” on Saturday. But as of 3:30, the college and the city were in sync again. Our news team reports.

Johannes Werner: Using a backhoe and other heavy equipment, work crews on Wednesday morning started again with the clearing of the bayfront land, to make space for a soccer field and six beach volleyball courts.

In more dramatic action than the palm tree removal that began Thursday and stopped as of Saturday, when then city posted its stop order, the backhoe operator this morning began to cut down historic slash pines.

Around 11 am, a big slash pine came crashing down. Another one near it was apparently going to be next.

A big orange “Stop order” sign posted by the City of Sarasota Building Department on the site was still in place. Posted on Saturday morning, it says “All work suspended until further notice”, and cites “tree removal without permit”.

Neighbor Karen Stack and another onlooker gasped, while filming a big slash pine crashing down. They talked to the tree about New College President Richard Corcoran:

Karen Stack: [sound of crashing tree] Rest in peace. You’re gonna be in a better place now. No Corcoran to bother you anymore.

Downed slash pine in the Uplands Preserve. Photo: Jill Castoral

JW: Stack says she believes the pines were already there when the Ringling brothers built their three winter mansions on this property in the 1920s.

KS: We counted about a total of 40 trees that had been tagged. And among them were many of these beautiful pines, the splash pies that have been here well before Ringling actually owned this property.

JW: But as of 3:30 this afternoon, New College was in sync again with the City of Sarasota. Deputy City Manager Pat Robinson sent a message to the College saying this:

“After a review by the City Attorney’s Office, the City’s Development Services Department, and the City of Sarasota’s Planning Department it has been determined that the City of Sarasota does not have the authority to stop the removal of the trees on the New College of Florida campus in this circumstance.  Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.  I appreciate staff’s diligence during the review of this issue.”

That leaves opponents looking for recourse with the state and another public university.

On Friday, Jono Miller, a cabbage palm expert and retired New College environmental science teacher, said the neighbors were trying to find out whether New College notified the Florida Division for Historical Resources. According to Miller, the planned soccer field and volleyball courts on the land are precluded by a 2005 agreement, when the University of South Florida transferred the Uplands Preserve to New College. That agreement (see photo) stipulates that it is restricted to “passive recreational use” and “open space use”, according to Miller and the current campus development plan. That would not include soccer or volleyball.

Stay tuned.

Reporting for WSLR News, this has been Johannes Werner.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.