Critics balk as trees cut down in front of Bellagio to make way for F1 grandstands
Las Vegas visitors say it’s “unfortunate” and “shortsighted” that a line of mature trees along the sidewalk in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino was eliminated as officials prepare Las Vegas Boulevard to host the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend event in November.
The blog Vital Vegas on Casino.org noted Wednesday that MGM Resorts International officials said last year that the 25-year-old trees in front of the Bellagio fountains would be removed “temporarily and safely” to make room for grandstands for spectators.
“This work is part of preparations for the Las Vegas Grand Prix and our efforts to provide the best possible experience through improved visibility, mobility and pedestrian access and safety,” MGM Resorts, Bellagio’s parent company, said in a statement provided to The Nevada Independent on Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon, Sharlene Labore and a friend sought refuge from the sun and 97 degree heat under a bit of shade created by a Bellagio entrance column. Without the trees, the patio in front of the Bellagio fountains basks in the sun. The pair are visiting Las Vegas from New Hampshire to attend the Big Blues Bender at the Westgate Resort and Casino.
“I think there should be some shade here for people like myself and my friends who need to get out of the sun,” Labore said. “Greed kills. And it just killed a bunch of trees because, let's face it, they're making a lot of money from the race coming here. I think it's unfortunate. It's good that the race is coming but it's unfortunate that they cut down trees.”
Canadian Sarah Smith, who is visiting with some friends, said she’s also on “team tree.”
“We want the trees. They used to create so much shade. I remember now,” Smith said. “That's very shortsighted to cut down the trees.”
An MGM representative said that the company “went through a lot of evaluation” and determined that some of the trees would be cut down and recycled into wood chip mulch for parks in Southern Nevada. Trees closest to the water will be removed, stored and replanted “sometime before New Year’s Eve” as they are in planters and are easier to relocate, the company said.
MGM Resorts did not respond to specific questions about whether there are concerns about having shade for visitors enjoying the Bellagio fountains or whether the company plans to plant trees in the community as part of its commitment to addressing climate change.
The decision to cut down the trees has been criticized on X, formerly known as Twitter, and a petition circulating online is calling on MGM Resorts to take accountability and pledge to plant new trees elsewhere in the Las Vegas Valley.
Krista Diamond, a Las Vegas resident and writer whose work has been featured in Desert Companion and Eater Las Vegas, grew concerned after seeing the pictures of the bare tree stumps on X and decided to create the Change.org petition. While she acknowledged she is “skeptical” of a petition’s ability to effect change, she said her passion to advocate for climate reform and the potential impact on heat on the Strip pushed her to set the petition up.
“We live in one of the fastest-warming cities in America and trees provide shade and so much needed cooling,” Diamond told The Nevada Independent. “I know it's not doing much … But I think if enough people cared about this, maybe we could get some of these companies that make a lot of money to plant trees in a city that really needs them.”
Diamond is concerned about the Strip becoming more of a heat island — where concrete and glass buildings, high traffic and lack of trees create a hotter environment.
“It's not unreasonable to want shade, to want to be comfortable. This is the city where living creatures exist and I think that we deserve better. We deserve to be comfortable,” Diamond said. “I just would really like it if MGM Resorts and these other companies saw that this is something that people care about and make a commitment to our community. And I would really like it if that commitment came in the form of planting trees.”