Mar 12, 2024 - News

Nashville to cut trees downtown ahead of purple martins' return

Trees in front of the Schermerhorn property

A line of trees in front of the symphony property will be cut down before purple martins return to town. Photo: Nate Rau/Axios

Ten Metro-owned trees near the Schermerhorn Symphony property will soon be cut down in the next chapter of the epic battle to redirect a massive flock of purple martins.

Why it matters: Destroying trees downtown has been a sensitive issue in Nashville since 2019, when some cherry blossom trees were transplanted and others were destroyed to make room for the NFL draft stage.

Catch up quick: Since 2020, tens of thousands of martins have made their home in elm trees on the symphony property, creating a nuisance, mainly because of their feces.

Yes, but: The plan didn't really work, as the purple martins simply converted nearby Metro-owned elms into their homes.

What they're saying: Mayor Freddie O'Connell has been aware of the struggle to deal with the purple martins because he previously represented the downtown area on the Metro Council.

  • "Years of study, discussion, efforts and expenses have failed to produce a solution to the hundreds of thousands of purple martins that roost annually in the 10 trees outside the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The trees will be replaced with a new species at no cost to Metro," O'Connell's spokesperson Alex Apple tells Axios.

What's next: Time is of the essence because the purple martins send scouts in the coming weeks to select the spot where they will roost next. They arrive in the late spring or early summer.

  • A property in Germantown owned by Metro Water has been identified as one possible alternative roost location, Apple says.
  • "If they show interest during pre-roosting in this property, we will work to make the site attractive to them," Apple says. "We remain committed to being a city that supports a healthy bird population."
  • The symphony will pay to destroy the trees. It hasn't been determined yet what kind of trees or how many will replace the elms.
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