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Huge Saguaro cut down on Broadway

Posted at 7:30 PM, May 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-27 22:32:21-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Saguaro cactus are one of the symbols of the Sonoran Desert but a Saguaro thousands of Tucson drivers went by every day is gone.
 
Friday morning, City of Tucson work crews went to Broadway and Plumer and cut down a Saguaro that may be a hundred years old.
 
Saguaros are a majestic part of the Sonoran Desert.  They grow nowhere else.  But you can see them every day by the side of busy roads, too.
 
Usually a Sahuaro won't grow those arms until it's 70 years old.  Gary Wittmer, the landscape architect for the Tucson Department of Transportation thinks this one was even older.
 
"I would estimate it to be over a hundred years, a hundred years old."
       
The city saw the cactus was leaning as if it was about to fall. The ground around it was starting to crack.
 
TDOT spokesperson Michael Graham says, “With the upcoming monsoon season, summer thunderstorms, high winds, saturated ground. We certainly didn't want to put people at risk as they walk down the sidewalk or drive down Broadway or Plumer."
 
Here's some perspective on how much a saguaro can weigh. The saguaro that was cut down probably weighed between four and five tons.  So eight thousand to ten thousand pounds.  Our KGUN Ford Explorer news vehicle weighs about 32 hundred pounds that means that cactus weighed two and a half to three times the weight of the truck.
 
State law requires permits to cut down or move a Saguaro but the city says for public safety it can bring it down. Spokesperson Mike Graham says the decision has nothing to do with the Broadway widening project.
        
Landscape architect Gary Wittmer says trying to transplant the old cactus could have cost 10 to 20 thousand dollars with maybe a 50-50 chance it would survive.
 
He says, "The fact it was so tall, if we had put it in a box, craned it on a trailer, and had to crane it onto a trailer you couldn't really move it very far because of the overhead power lines."
       
And he says the money the city would have spent could buy a batch of young cactus just starting their reach for the sky.