“Unsanctioned Pruner” Meets “Neat People” in Jail


Fullscreen capture 6262010 85036 AM On Dallas News.com there's an intriguing article about a woman accused of felony criminal mischief – for cutting and
removing briars, vines, dead tree limbs and trash from the woods near her home.  I love her attitude about being
hauled off to jail: "I'd never been in a perp walk before. It was cool." 

The story tells us she's an attorney but also, prominently and obnoxiously, that she's 67.  Why is it that anything someone over 60 does is about their age, especially if the someone is a woman? 

Issues are raised by this story, and we haven't even gotten to the meat of it yet.

Of course there's the police overreaching issue, and department even said later about having arrested her:  "Here's a 67-year-old lady. What's the flight risk?"  (Notice the age again.)

But on-topic here is the big land management issue that started the whole incident. On one side of the conflict are gardeners like this volunteer pruner, who said of the thicket she was trying to tame: "It looks crappy, and I'm not interested in walking into a face full of this when I go in after my dogs."  Taking the opposite position are advocates of the "Keep It Wild" approach to maintenance.  They say "It's a protected,
wild area." And briars are "part of the ecosystem. We have
all kinds of wild creatures living here." 

All good points, and a thorny issue for any community.


  1. assuming the “protected wild area” bit is right pruning stuff seems inappropriate as is allowing your dogs to run in there. It sounds like several people asked her to stop, offering valid reasons why, and she ignored them. I’m all for people volunteering to help public gardens and parks but thats not what she was doing. What she was doing was ignoring the requests of the people who run the gaff to do what she wanted to something that didn’t belong to her because it suited her. Which sounds more like vandalism than volunteering.

  2. I agree with tai haku. About 20-25 years ago in the mountains of Colorado, a man built a road through a state forest and the law just shrugged its shoulders and said what’s done is done. The man basically stole state land for his own pleasure.

    In this day and age, everyone is a flight risk! It’s a short drive or flight to the border from anywhere!

  3. Not too smart for a lawyer.If it is clearly posted than she simply broke the law,regardless of her intentions.And the “perp” walk was cool?

  4. The main part of the issue here is not one woman with pruning shears. After these are Texas trees, unless she had a chainsaw and a bobcat she’s not going to do much damage by herself.She’s not harvesting the wood for bentwood furniture or planting flowers. The area is not “wild” and it is intermittently maintained by the parks department. This is not to say that Feeley is not sh*tstarter herself.

    The bigger issue is the extremely proprietary attitude of the people who live across from the greenbelt.They seem to consider the area to be their property and they don’t want to share. In comments to articles and letters, these people always bring up how their view of “our greenbelt” is so important to them. These were the people calling the parks department to complain of the woman with the felcos in “their” greenbelt.

    It seems to be less of a concern to the complainers that she actually damages the greenbelt than that she is encroaching upon what is theirs.

    “…we bought here because of the greenbelt and we like it’s nature. We are not interested in seeing the houses on the other side of the creek or turning the area into a “park”. There is already through traffic of cars cutting through our neighborhood to Wynnewood as well as the occasional couple parked along our street having what appears to be some sort of tryst. Opening up the area would only encourage foot traffic…”

    This to them is not a neighborhood resource but one limited to the lucky few who live across from it. It is theirs to have and theirs to protect. Their opinions are the only ones that matter. No sharing.


  5. So the callers were calling for the wrong reasons. The calls needed to be made. The lawyer has no business pruning a park. She also knows it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

  6. So imagine that this woman was your neighbor, and she didn’t happen to like what you were doing with your property, so she came onto it and started pruning, etc. Perhaps when her dog ran onto your property, she would have to fight through your thorny hedge to retrieve it, so she decided to prune a hole in the hedge. Would these behaviors be ok? No. What she did is especially irksome in light of the fact that the park welcomes volunteers, and had spoken to her about what she was doing. She seems to think she’s above working something out.

    I suppose she could gather support for petitioning to “clean up the park”, rather than leave it “wild”. But vigilante pruning is vandalism. Making it a felony though is absurd.

  7. I don’t know the details of this incident…

    …but people who decide that their view of the world is everyone’s CAN be a problem.

    A few years ago, we had someone deliberately removing native thistle from our local prairie; not a major crime…it grows back quickly, but losing all of it would have considerably affected wildlife. Birds and Insects rely on such seed sources.

    I spread the word around that such plants were good…the problem stopped after a while.

    People have also tried…or talked about doing… such things as mowing “messy areas” (prairies!), clearing out weeds (wildflowers!), and PLANTING their own flowers (alien weeds!).

    Just the other day a man said “you’re messing with nature!” when he saw me removing sweet clover… I answered that folks had ALREADY messed with the ecosystem, and I was undoing a bit of the damage.

    The problem is mainly a lack of education; I still hear people talk about their favorite prairie flowers (Chickory and Queen Anne’s Lace!!!)… central Europe, maybe, but not central Illinois!

    In this case, the details matter: was the area being managed for wildlife? Was she clearing or maintaining a trail, as opposed to clearing an entire area? What were the criteria she used to remove plants?

    I’ll just end by saying that it REALLY helps if a person knows something about the subject before making decisions for everyone else!

  8. Protected land means you don’t have your dogs running wild in it. Dogs aren’t even allowed in most state and nat’l parks, so why would they be allowed in a protected area? So that is the first problem.

    The second problem, indeed, is the proprietary attitude towards land like this. It isn’t there for one individual, but for everyone and the next few generations it remains protected. And it is there for its unique combination of wildlife.

    (Addressing Susan’s first points though, right on. This woman was pegged from the get-go because of her age. And what was with the physical description of weight and height? Okay, she’s slight and spry, we get it.)

  9. This has nothing to do with age. Person could have been 18 for all I care. They could have just given a warning first like “we’ve had a complaint and don’t do it again or else” – don’t the cops have better things to do in her community?

  10. I’ll take her. The wild forest is messy and little tidying up isn’t going to hurt it. I’ll give her some felcos and loppers and send her into the woods on a mission.

    Absent a biological inventory of the plant and animal species using this “greenbelt”, I’m not ready too pass judgment. It very well could be a trash filled tangle of exotic invasives and crack whores in the urban/suburban developed environment.

  11. Many issues here, everyone tapped into many.

    But I wouldn’t let someone that is only interested in their dogs prune my garden. I would let someone who knows my plants, my overall plant scheme, and how to prune to come in and prune.

    Same goes for a riparian jungle in a suburban development in Texas.

    As much as I believe that land should be set aside for its own sake and the animals that use it, it always makes better politics with the larger public to build a trail. They learn to love it and protect it if it is well managed. However, the locals may disapprove for the reasons stated well above.

  12. First, I live in Dallas. The parks dept is woefully shortstaffed and terrible at park maintenance. If you could see the number of dead trees they have planted at white rock lake you would get my drift. It is something of a tradition in Dallas to try and take care of area neglaected by the city. There are numerous volunteer garbage pick-up groups, etc. A bicyclist recently pruned an area of the bike trail that had a blind spot. If you left things up to the city of dallas nothing would ever get done.

  13. Here in Minneapolis, the city came in and mowed an intentionally planted no-mow grass on private property. The grasses had just spread and started to bend down to give a wave effect. Now they are shorn like a sheep and just sad. You can’t win.

  14. An aside: police and many newspapers automatically report ages. Having her age listed in the paper isn’t a sign of her being targeted by age.

  15. Being a lawyer, she should be aware that you don’t have to know the laws in order to violate them. It’s just another example of people failing to recognize the value or beauty of wild spaces and wanting to impose their own aesthetics as an “improvement”.

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