After a site visit last December, the city's public works department OK'd the tree's removal after the beautification board had been notified. In February, the board discussed spending $13,000 to cut down the sprawling tree and replacing it with smaller geiger trees.
Once neighbors got wind of those plans, the protests started: phone calls, posters, fliers and, most recently, Cooper's Saturday wedding, at which she and several other white-dressed women vowed before about 50 onlookers to honor and protect the tree.
Cooper got the idea from a group of women who've been protesting deforestation in Mexico by marrying trees, she said. "So I saw that and I thought, 'Oh we should marry the ficus tree — kind of giggle, giggle — but everyone said it's a really good idea, so I said, 'OK, let's do it.' "
She staged the wedding three days ahead of Tuesday's Beautification Advisory Board meeting, when the tree's fate is on the agenda. To be discussed: last month's report by certified arborist Rick Joyce, who gave the tree a thorough check-up. He determined it's in fairly robust health and could withstand judicious pruning.
In an email, city spokeswoman Stephanie Schaffer wrote, "The City is moving forward to save the Snell Park ficus tree. Every day City employees care for the trees and plants that give our city a sense of community and shared history."
But even though the city appears to be backing away from its initial plans to cut down the ficus, its fate remains uncertain, Cooper points out.
"It's still not saved," she said. "It's still not decided, and that's what I don't understand. If the arborist says it can be trimmed and if ... Jeff Romer stood up at the last meeting and said I never asked for the tree to be cut down, and if we all in the neighborhood don't want it to, why are we still talking about cutting the tree down?"
Ward 5 Councilman Fred Burson, the only city official to attend, vowed to help save the tree, in front of which he'd posed with his family for a campaign photo. "If we don't get it settled at the Beautification Board meeting, I'll take it to the City Council," he said.
Cooper and her tree guardians will be there, cheering him on. For her, it's about more than green space; it's personal:
"If they cut down this tree, I'm going to be a widow."