City Clear-Cut Trees Near Bass Pro Without Permit 

Environmentalists are concerned that clear-cutting could destabilize the riverbank.

Less than 10 days remain in a cease-and-desist order issued by the Corps of Engineers that halted the clearing of trees and underbrush from the east banks of the Wolf River Harbor.

The clearing, initiated by Mayor A C Wharton's administration, began in December, when more than 1,000 yards of trees and underbrush were razed from the riverbank — with much of the clearing occurring on the bank below the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.

Shortly after, the Corps issued a cease-and-desist order to the city because they were operating without proper environmental permits.

click to enlarge An area clear-cut by the city without a permit. - NAOMI VAN TOL
  • Naomi Van Tol
  • An area clear-cut by the city without a permit.

"To me, it's not a silly, minor issue. They need to do some serious mitigation for this," said local environmental activist Naomi Van Tol, who noted the irony of a massive clearing she calls "unnecessary" occurring directly below a retail giant that touts conservancy as a core principle of their mission.

Van Tol and other environmentalists have several concerns about the clearing, but the potential destabilization of the riverbank stands out.

"Many of those trees are over a hundred years old. The trees, the underbrush ... that's what was holding the bank together," said Van Tol, who witnessed large amounts of dirt being removed from the bank and dumped in the harbor.

Should any portion of the harbor collapse and create the need for corrective action, the cost will likely be shouldered by taxpayers, Van Tol said.

Gregg Williams, chief of the regulatory branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, signed off on the public notice of the cease-and-desist, but he would not speculate on potential damage.

"We're not for or against the project. We'll look at the comments. We'll look at the assessment, and then we'll make a decision once we have all of the information we'll need," Williams said.

Jack Sammons, the former chief administrative officer for the city, initially authorized the clearing as part of the Bass Pro public-private partnership to redevelop the Pyramid and the surrounding area. The clearing of the trees was to provide unobstructed views for patrons of Bass Pro and to make way for a floating boat dock for Bass Pro's planned fishing tournaments.

Van Tol is quick to point out that an unobstructed view was already available from the observation deck, and the floodwalls surrounding the Pyramid already restrict view into the harbor and river.

"There was absolutely no point in the clearing. None," Van Tol said.

When contacted, Bass Pro would only say that they had nothing to do with the decision to cut down trees.

"We were unaware that any trees were ordered cut down around our facility. This was conducted by the City of Memphis. This was not our decision," Bass Pro spokesperson Jack Wlezien said.

An after-the-fact permit for continued work could be issued by the Corps, but according to Mayor Jim Strickland's Chief Communications Officer Ursula Madden, no further clearing work is being planned at this time.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Speaking of Bass Pro Shops, Corps Of Engineers


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



Hungry Memphis

Pete & Sam's returns!

We Saw You

When it rains, keep pouring the BBQ sauce

Politics Beat Blog

Keeping Score in Strickland's Tent at the Barbecue Fest

Music Blog

Quintron Brings Weather Warlock to Bar DKDC

Intermission Impossible

Love! Valour! Compassion!— Remembering Memphis actor David Foster

Intermission Impossible

Drama Club: Reviews of Othello, Annapurna, and Fun Home


Readers also liked…

  • Birthing A Center

    Choices to bring births to Midtown.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • Pint Night

    Civil Pour series couples discourse and beers.
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • Trumping Latinos

    Memphis Latinos fear for the lives they’ve built in an uncertain future ahead.
    • Nov 17, 2016
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation