The Orlando City Council spent nearly $6 million Monday to save a tree.

But what a tree, its fans said.

Actually, the city got a whole park, a full city-block in size on the eastern edge of downtown, for $5.85 million. Constitution Green has been a city park for decades, but it was privately owned and the land was leased to the city. Under development pressure, the owners saw prospects for a greener field, planted with concrete and steel.

In the heart of the park is a massive, 125-year-old live oak with huge boughs that rise, dip down, bury themselves, and rise again. The community rallied, literally and with a petition drive, to save the tree, Commissioner Patty Sheehan joined in, Mayor Buddy Dyer threatened eminent domain in negotiations, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and a deal was struck. City Council approved it Monday.

“This is a ‘treemendous’ day,” said Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Eric Rollings.

The deal is not all cash. The city is paying Mabel Groves LLLP $3.34 million in cash and throwing in another piece of downtown property, worth $2.51 million.

“I am so pleased to have Lake Eola Park in my district. But Lake Eola is like a rock ‘n’ roll club, and Constitution Green is like classical music,” Sheehan said.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@flordiapolitics.com or scottmichaelpowers@yahoo.com.

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