The city of Nashville won’t cut down 21 ornamental cherry trees to make space for an NFL draft stage, Mayor David Briley said Saturday.

In a news release, Briley said he had informed the NFL and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. that they will have to remove the trees intact and replant them in the city. Any trees that are diseased or near death will be replaced with new, healthy trees.

The trees were to be cut down on Monday, just ahead of Nashville’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival includes a walk along the cherry tree-lined downtown riverfront on April 13. The 2019 NFL draft takes place in Nashville April 25-27.

The Tennessean reports the NFL and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. had previously said they would donate 200 cherry trees each to Metro Parks for planting throughout the city.

After plans to cut the cherry trees were made public, Nashville Tree Foundation Board President Noni Nielsen called the removal “incredibly short-sighted” for a one-time event that will last only a few days.

Tracey Shafroth, an advocate for tree planting across the city, said the new trees were not a replacement for the old ones because it would take many years for them to reach maturity.

“We don’t plant trees for ourselves, we plant them for our grandchildren,” Shafroth said. “They take a long time to grow, and their benefits grow as they grow.”

According to city officials, Briley’s office discussed removing the trees with Metro Parks Horticulturist Randall Lance after learning that the size of the NFL draft stage and other structures would require it.

Lance planted the majority of the trees a number of years ago. He said some of the trees in the area are dead or compromised and should be replaced. The city had planned to use their removal as an opportunity to restore the soil and replant new, healthy trees.

On Saturday, Briley said in the news release that in addition to the 21 trees that will be relocated, the NFL and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. will plant 17 more cherry trees at downtown’s Riverfront Park in previously vacant and new locations.

Along with the 200 trees to be planted in other parts of the city, the plan will allow Nashville to “continue to honor our relationship with Japan and long-time partnership with the Cherry Blossom Festival,” Briley said.

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