Home / Government / Spa Tree Removal Sparks Outrage In Safety Harbor

Spa Tree Removal Sparks Outrage In Safety Harbor

Spa trees. Credit: Gisela Bennie
Trees being removed at the Safety Harbor Spa on Tuesday. Credit: Gisela Bennie.

Workers began removing trees from the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa property this week, causing a wave of protest to ripple through town.

Social media sites blew up after pictures of the felled trees started making the rounds Tuesday afternoon, as the significance of the decision to clear at least 14 trees from the spa in order to make room for a new parking lot hit home.

“Cutting down trees for a parking lot? Shame on you! And to think how beautiful that land used to be… Bad form SHR&S,” Jen Pipin wrote on the spa’s Facebook page.

“Tree slaughter at Safety Harbor Spa. Sick to my stomach. I will never look at this property the same again,” another Facebook post read.

Credit: Ken McGuire/Facebook
Ken McGuire/Facebook

Another post to the spa’s Facebook page by Ken McGuire contained a photo with the caption, “So sad to see these trees go.”

In a reply to that post, the spa responded by stating “Please see the post we made on September 17th. We address this problem with the trees.”

A quick check of that entry reveals a partial explanation behind the spa’s decision:

Some of our members and guests have expressed concern for the trees in the parking area. We would just like to say:

We love our trees too! Thank you for posting your concern on our Facebook page. Please be assured, we are making every effort to save all the trees possible as we pave and improve our guest parking facilities in the unpaved area. We have consulted with a professional arborist as well as officials from the City of Safety Harbor and Pinellas County. We are following the recommendations of these professionals – which are that some of the trees are unsafe due to age and/or disease and should be removed for the safety of our members and guests. Just this past Sunday (9/14/14) one of the trees on Philippe Parkway fell down due to age. Please know we will do our best to minimize the damage to the beauty and ecology of the property. Again, thank you for your concern and comments.

The issue is coming to a head as the city is working on drafting a new tree ordinance and exploring a possible moratorium that would prohibit the removal of trees in town.

Some trees on the spa property are diseased and/or damaged, according to officials.
Some trees on the spa property are diseased and/or damaged, according to officials.

Proponents of the moratorium realize there is little time to waste, as the spa owners are contemplating removing around 15-20 more of the site’s 138 trees.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold addressed residents’ concerns about the situation during the City Commission meeting last week.

“The City doesn’t permit the removal of trees, except for a Grand tree. The permitting is through the county,” he said.

“We’re concerned enough that we’re trying to take a tree ordinance in-house and make it more strict in-house than the county’s ordinance.”

Mayor Steingold then asked City Manager Matt Spoor to send a letter to spa owner Bill Touloumis requesting he reduce the number of trees he is looking to remove.

“He’s going to do what he wants,” the mayor said,” but I think a letter would help.”

That letter was sent Tuesday, September 16. It reads as follows:

Mr. Touloumis,

The Safety Harbor City Commission would like to thank you for your positive efforts in improving your facility for the residents and guests of the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. The City Commission and residents appreciate the tree canopy and the value it brings to our properties and community.

The City Commission understands trees must be removed to complete your new parking project and adjacent detention pond. We thank you for removing any dead or hazardous trees and for replanting with several live oak trees within the parking lot. The City Commission would ask that you strongly consider working around any and all healthy trees for the benefit of your property and the community as a whole.

Thank you for your time,

Andy Steingold

Mayor of Safety Harbor, on behalf of the entire City Commission

Stay with Safety Harbor Connect for updates and continued coverage of the tree removals at the Safety Harbor Spa.



  1. It looks absolutely hideous out there right now. This destruction is simply wrong, and the Spa should be shamed, hated, and boycotted. The most insulting part is the use of an arborist for this “report,” clearly paid off to deliver results suited to their interests as a scapegoat for their destruction. How transparent. That’s how these things work. The tobacco industry can get a so called expert to write a report about how smoking cigarettes is beneficial to your health. What a load of you know what. Shame on the spa!

  2. What a SAD day for us all ! The “spa” continues to slap us in the face and disregard the community it occupies! How much more do we take before we act… Remember the 60 and 70s ? These trees did, many remembered not just the1960 & 70s but the 1860s & 70s

  3. How much more will we take from this owner and “the spa”! They find ways to destroy our community while staying within “the law”. What a sad day it is for us all

  4. I hope that those of you that are concerned will go to Trip Advisors and give your opinions
    about this place. I no longer will be supporting this establishment. They have lost my business.

  5. I have decided that I will not promote the Safety Harbor Spa to any of my friends and relatives that would usually stay there. I hope that it affects their revenue in the future for what they are doing.
    I grew up in this area in the 1950’s and 60’s and I attended the Clearwater Campus J.C. at a young age, would hang out in Tarpon Springs and we would take our prom dates and girlfriends to the Kapok Tree restaurant, for an evening of dining and later dancing. I have seen a lot of changes that have frustrated me to include the displacement of wonderful and beautiful animals that we have in our area and trees that have been cut down to make way for parking lots or big buildings. It’s sad to see this happen. Where is the social conscious and responsibility of our officials and business owners? I think that an independent Arborist that doesn’t have a self interest should take a look at the trees that are only diseased. With proper planning and guidance, the parking lot can still be filled in, and leveled with nice asphalt around the trees to look beautiful and enhance the appearance of the parking lot, thus being a win-win for everyone. Planting new trees can be costly and money that could be put to better use. After all, how would you or the tourist feel if the Safety Harbor Spa was demolished to make way for a new high rise hotel or cut down all the beautiful trees that are in Philippe Park. It would take away from the charm, character and historical value that the Safety Harbor Spa and the City of Safety Harbor currently has. See my point?
    Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.

  6. Safety Harbor is lucky that the Baranoff Oak Tree is not located on the Spa property. If the Spa owned it, we would just have several additional paved parking spaces in the full sun instead a grand tree canopy providing shade and beauty for everyone who walks by it.

  7. I am sick over the destruction. What a loss for all the community. Can the felled tree trunks be turned into benches in one of our parks?

  8. SHRS could have used some basic PR skills and made this a positive for both the spa and the residents of SH. Certainly some of the trees being removed are diseased and a potential hazard. SHRS could have made this the issue by promising and showing replacement of these trees. Further, a public display of a design drawing of a beautiful paved parking area surrounded by and embedded with greenery and lush landscaping would’ve gone a long way towards alleviating the frustration of SH residents given the unknown result of what we see as decimation rather than rebuilding and improving.

  9. I just drove by the Spa and I couldn’t believe the destruction of the trees there. Safety Harbor will never look the same again. Mr. Touloumis has seriously devalued his Spa property, devalued the City of Safety Harbor, and has devalued all of the properties of Safety Harbor’s residents.

    This is especially difficult to watch because many of us have put great efforts into saving Safety Harbor’s beautiful trees. Now we are watching the total destruction in just a few days of the Spa’s trees that took generations to grow. Replacing beautiful old trees with a paved parking lot is unbelievably sad in a special city like Safety Harbor. After today, Safety Harbor will be a little less special than it used to be.

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