While President-Elect Donald Trump took the stage in Mobile, for some, the large Christmas tree behind him stole the spotlight.

A 50 ft. tall cedar chopped down from Public Safety Memorial Park at the request of the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper.

“In preparing for this event, I worked closely with the advance team. In an effort to make sure every detail was covered and the expectations of the President-Elect’s team were exceeded, I became overzealous,” Cooper said in a statement. “I now know there are citizens who are upset and offended that a tree from a City park was used as part of the decorations for the event. I accept full responsibility for having this done.”

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson also issued a statement in the wake of social media backlash. It states:

I have spoken with the Chief of Staff regarding Saturday’s visit to the City of Mobile by the President-Elect. He made a mistake by directing our employees to cut down a tree from a city park and install it at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the event. I have accepted his apology for that mistake.
At my direction, the tree will be repurposed and our city staff has a plan in place to replant three Cedar trees in Public Safety Memorial Park.
Moving forward, we will ensure this mistake does not happen again. Vibrant public parks are central to my vision for making Mobile the most family-friendly city in America, and we are committed to safeguarding our signature trees.”

The city has a tree commission to protect heritage trees like the cedar, but its jurisdiction only extends to the public right-of-way. Commissioner Jessie McDaniel feels as if the Mayor’s administration has acted aggressively when it comes to trees and points to the case of the trees outside of the History Museum of Mobile that the Mayor says were a public safety concern.

“Personally, I don’t think there’s a tree in the city of Mobile that’s safe under the current administration. They have shown a willingness to go after trees that weren’t hurting anybody or causing a concern for public safety,” McDaniel says he’s relying on the public to voice their concerns to the administration.

As for the legality of the tree chopping, City Attorney Ricardo Woods says they followed all the rules.

“The Mobile City ordinance allows the removal of public trees from public property when authorized by the urban forester. The removal of a public tree from a public park does not come under the authority of the Tree Commission nor does it require a permit under Section 64-3(H)(8)(b) of the city ordinance,” Woods stated.

When asked if there was written proof or documentation of the authorization, Woods said there wasn’t any. WKRG is waiting for a comment from the Urban Forestry Department and the Executive Director of Parks and Recreation, but our request must first go through the city spokesperson.

Spokesperson George Talbot says they’ve discovered some termite damage to the tree that they weren’t aware of before chopping it down. They’re asking the public to help them find a creative way to repurpose the wood.