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Published:July 1st, 2009 08:30 EST
Tree Protesting Reaches New Heights

Tree Protesting Reaches New Heights

By Christy Killelea

The New Hanover County Airport Authority in Wilmington, NC is expanding its runways at the ILM airport. Unfortunately, that means many home owners` trees have been chopped down to the ground. One of those home owners is Charles Allen Joyce, an 87 year old WWII veteran. He has been fighting against the Airport Authority in order to save the trees in his yard, one of which is a civil war era oak tree.


To him, these trees hold lots of historical value and fond memories. They`re unique and they`re beautiful, " Joyce said previously to the Star News. Unfortunately, his fight is meeting a bitter end as the airport has succeeded in chopping down most of the trees except for two small trees and the one civil war oak tree left standing because of his son, Charlie.


His son, Charlie Joyce, Jr. has been protesting since Wednesday to keep the last civil war oak tree in his yard. However, the airport is not willing to compromise in order to save the one historical tree left standing. Without the trees, the Joyce Family is losing the wind resistance the trees provided during hurricanes as well as noise control and shade it provides for the house. When asked why this last tree is so important to him, he answered, I`m doing this for my Dad because this is the tree that means the most to my family and it`s also the oldest. "   


Charlie has estimated the tree is about 150 years old, one of the only trees of its kind in Wilmington. The historical and sentimental values of the tree mean nothing to the airport who intends to go through with cutting down the tree Monday. If Charlie refuses to come down from the tree, he faces getting arrested by the Federal Aviation Administration.


Last year, Charles Joyce, Sr. signed an agreement allowing the airport to chop down any trees over 30 ft. for their new instrumental landing system. When Joyce signed the agreement, he was under the impression that the airport was only going to top his trees, not completely chop them to the ground. He was never told he could say no, " says his former attorney, Michael Davenport.


The Joyce Family is claiming that they were misled by Vance Moore who had power of attorney over Mr. Joyce, and that the Airport Authority capitalized on the situation.  The original agreement supposedly states there was an option between cutting the trees completely or topping them. Joyce had read the original agreement but when he signed the agreement last year, he supposedly signed the agreement that did not state the topping option.


Because of this technicality, the Joyce Family went to court in March and the judge stated the option was left out because of an administrative error and ruled in favor of the airport. Furthermore, the airport claims that the cutting of the trees is a public safety issue even though the Joyce property is 900 feet off the side of the runway. The airport has paid Charles Joyce $44,000 for the cutting of his trees, but the trees mean more to him than the money. Recently, he tried to give the money back to the airport, but they no longer wanted it and kept their stance on cutting down his trees.


Now, all there is to do is wait for the last tree to come crashing down to the ground. Sadness is beyond my words, " Charlie Joyce Sr. said about the situation. He is quite bitter about what`s happened to his trees and so are his sons. I`m proud of my children [for protesting], " Joyce stated on Thursday. Charlie Joyce, Jr. has certainly received a lot of media attention for his protesting from local TV and radio stations as well as the Star News. 


Many supporters have driven by his house, honking their horns and a few have even stopped by to offer him drinks and food for his stand against cutting the tree, but Charlie is not protesting for the freebies. He is protesting to save his family`s beloved tree and make a positive statement to the community about the lack of protection for historical trees in the laws set by New Hanover County.


Hopefully through my actions people in New Hanover County will realize that we need better tree conservation laws, " Charlie has stated. At this point, it is inevitable that the civil war era tree will be cut down, no matter how much protesting is done. The Joyce Family will surely miss their trees as most of them will be destroyed completely this week.