To save a tree, she hacked her hair

Tree advocate Cinzia Duncan said she cut her hair at a Tampa City Council meeting to make a point that hair grows back quickly, but trees don't.
Cinzia Duncan, a member of the tree advocacy group Tree Something, Say Something, said she would cut her hair again as she did in a public City Council meeting Thursday if it meant saving Tampa’s mature tree canopy. {Photo by Charlie Frago]
Cinzia Duncan, a member of the tree advocacy group Tree Something, Say Something, said she would cut her hair again as she did in a public City Council meeting Thursday if it meant saving Tampa’s mature tree canopy. {Photo by Charlie Frago]
Published February 7
Updated February 7

TAMPA— Cinzia Duncan really, really didn't want to make it any easier to cut down Live Oaks and other grand trees in this city.

So at Thursday's City Council meeting, the 60-year-old retired Air Force lieutenant colonel took a pair of scissors she uses to clip coupons and cut off a big hunk of her blond, shoulder-length hair in front of gobsmacked council members.

Her point? Hair grows back. But a Live Oak likely won't sprout to its mature glory in the lifetime of anyone alive today.

As Duncan hacked through her hair, the eyes of council members widened. When she held the hunk aloft, someone in the chambers murmured, “Jesus.”

“Well, that happened. I can’t undo that,” Duncan said.

After a short discussion, Council member Mike Suarez made a successful motion to adopt the proposals made by Duncan and other tree advocates: allow more flexibility in how a house is built on a lot; to require at least 15 feet between a tree and the structure; and to require tree pruners to get a city permit so they don't butcher the canopy. Next stop is the Hillsborough City County Planning Commission.

But first, Suarez offered Duncan some advice.

“My father used to say, he was a barber, ‘If I make a mistake on your hair, come back in three weeks, I’ll fix it,’” Suarez said, before asking Duncan if she had made a hair appointment to address what was now a decidedly lopsided coif.

Council member Yolie Capin, who has served since 2010, said, “That's a first.” She turned to Charlie Miranda, who first joined the council in the 1970s, and asked: “Have you ever seen that?”

“I just saw it,” said Miranda, either in a comic deadpan or genuine shock.

Council members didn't spend a lot of time on debate before approving Suarez's motion. Capin was the only no vote.

Afterward, Duncan said she made the final decision to cut her hair on the fly, though she's been considering it for a few days. She doesn’t know if her decision to practice shelf-shearing made a difference in the vote. But if it did?

“It was worth every hair,” she said, noting the victory was due to the hard work of the advocacy group, Tree Something, Say Something, that she helped form last year.

Builders say they feel betrayed by tree advocates, who they said backed out of a compromise.

“We are totally opposed to this,” said Jennifer Motsinger, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.

After her City Hall derring-do, Duncan had to hustle off to tutor a third-grader over lunch. Then she was heading to the salon.

“It's going to be a bob,” she said.

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