Crews chop down Schermerhorn trees to keep purple martins away

Crews cut down 31 trees on Tuesday that surround the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 7:33 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Crews cut down 31 trees on Tuesday that surround the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown.

The symphony said the trees attract 150,000 purple martin birds each year.

There are advocates who want to save the birds, advocates who want to preserve the trees, and the Symphony, which says it pays $60,000 each year to clean up the mess the birds leave behind.

“I start all of my tours right here and it’s just a beautiful spot,” Eric Batey, owner of Big E’s Bronco Tours, said.

Batey begins his tours at the Schermerhorn. It’s a spot that now looks a lot more open after trees surrounding the symphony were chopped down Tuesday.

“I think it’s a horrible idea,” Batey said. “We need more green space, we need more trees, we need more everything.”

Crews chop off and haul off the remains to prevent the swarms of purple martins that roost in the trees every summer.

“I do think they are gross,” Daniella Milroy, who works nearby, said. “I don’t want to walk by and have birds around me or on me.”

Milroy said she’s all for cutting down the trees.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I think it will be a great place for locals and tourists to walk by and have more space and really open up Nashville.”

It’s a decision made after much controversy. In a joint statement, Metro Government, the Schermerhorn, bird and tree activists all came to a compromise. They plan to remove the trees but replace them with 150 others around the city that will not attract damaging birds.

“The fact that we have poop damage, that’s definitely a thing, but I think it’s something you need to sacrifice,” Batey said. “The trees are worth more than the damage being done by the martins.”

While bird researchers don’t know why purple martins choose to roost at the Schermerhorn, they also don’t know whey they will roost next.

The statement also said businesses in the area should take certain precautions like dim lights and prune trees. It also said not all the trees around the Symphony will be cut down. The trees along Symphony Plaza will be used for diversionary tactics to see if they can keep the trees but prevent the roost from returning.

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