Home / Latest Stories / ‘Save The Trees’ Protesters Picket Outside Safety Harbor Spa

‘Save The Trees’ Protesters Picket Outside Safety Harbor Spa

Six-year-old Sophia Capello holds a 'save the trees' sign outside the Safety Harbor Spa on Thursday.
Six-year-old Sophia Capello holds a sign protesting the removal of trees at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa on Thursday.

Small groups of concerned citizens lined the sidewalks in front of the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa on Thursday night to protest the removal of more than a dozen trees on the property this week.

The group held signs saying “save the trees’ and ‘honk if you love trees’ on Bayshore Boulevard near Main Street, and many cars coming through the busy intersection during the afternoon rush hour obliged, beeping their horns and giving the ‘thumbs up’ sign to the crowd.

The demonstration was in response to spa owner Bill Touloumis’ decision to remove at least 14 trees in order to make room for a new parking area on the property.

While many of the trees slated for removal have been declared diseased and/or dying, the mere fact that many majestic old oaks were being taken out without so much as a warning struck a nerve with some residents.

Betty Lou Douglas (R) protests the tree removal at the Safety Harbor Spa on Thursday.
Betty Lou Douglas (R) protests the tree removal at the Safety Harbor Spa on Thursday.

“I’ve lived here since I was five years old, and I’ve seen these trees on the spa property ever since I was a little girl,” longtime Safety Harbor resident Betty Lou Douglas said. “Some of these trees are 100 years old.”

“My question is, how do you do something like this without anybody knowing?”

Douglas, a spa member, said she found out what was happening when she pulled into the resort’s parking lot one day.

After noticing some of the trees were marked with red dots and Xs, she started asking what was going on and learned about the plan to take down the trees.

The action was enough to spur her to join the protest on Thursday, although Douglas admitted she would be keeping her spa membership.

“I will continue to be a member of the spa, but I just think they were very shortsighted with this,” she said.

“I mean this is Florida. What do people want in a parking lot in Florida except trees to provide shade?”

spa trees
Remnants of some of the trees that were removed at the Safety Harbor Spa.

Across the street Patricia Capello was standing with her young daughter, Sophia, holding signs and waving at passing motorists.

The Safety Harbor resident was practically in tears over the recent developments with the spa trees.

“We are disappointed with whoever made this decision,” Capella said. “This is a cute little town, and we want to preserve it.”

“Six years ago we came here and saw how beautiful it is, such personality,” she added. “We decided to move here because of it, and we don’t want to lose that.”

Standing next to her mom, little Sophia put the situation into perspective as only a six-year-old can.

“I wanted to make a tree house but now I can’t, so I will have to make one on the ground,” she said.

“And the birds have nowhere to sleep, so they’re going to fall on the ground, too.”

Those in attendance on Thursday said another demonstration was planned for Friday afternoon, also.



  1. The owners name is bill touloumis, he is the new owner, he made the decision and in the past years he has done nothing but tarnish the reputation of this beautiful spa my wife and I used to attend, however now due to the new owner and management we cant even step foot in because we see what the workers go through as well as the customers, we would love to see this place brought back to what it once was. but for that to happen, bill touloumis needs to let someone else take over

  2. It’s difficult to manage the tension between preserving ecological resources and private property rights. I want to preserve as many trees as possible, but I also recognize the owner of the spa has to make improvements to the property. The spa has already been in bankruptcy once. I don’t think anyone in Safety Harbor wants our most famous landmark to go out of business and become an abandoned derelict.

    • Paul, – Maybe the Spa should be managed by another corporation who won’t run the Spa into bankruptcy. There is no reason that this historic Spa should not be a viable and profitable business or that it should ever become a derelict building. The Spa is located in a great waterfront location next to a historic downtown, in the most attractive small city in Tampa Bay. Maybe this current crisis is a sign that the Spa should be sold to another corporate entity who will know how to effectively manage this spa and hotel business and make it a profitable enterprise.

  3. Safety Harbor’s great tree canopies, which give us so much shade and beauty every day, were left to us by past generations. We owe it to future generations to preserve these great trees so that people many years from now can enjoy these great trees just as we do now. Everyone needs to take a stand and make their voices heard on this issue. Come and join the protests and speak in behalf of these trees, because trees have no voice to speak on behalf of themselves.

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