Our Spectacular Beech Tree
At Nearly 200 Years Of Age She Was Saved From A Developer's Chain Saw
It was a dreary Sunday in late February, 1998. I had worked a half day and was settling down with our Sunday paper when I saw the real estate ad for an Open House at a small condo complex I had coveted for a while.
And, coincidentally, my wife and I were looking to move.
Sue was visiting her sister, so I decided to go over to the Open House and check the unit out. A narrow river runs behind the property and just as I was looking out through the rear slider, the sun poked through the clouds and three ducks swam by.
It was if the real estate agent had thrown a switch.
I roamed through the unit, along with other interested parties, and to me it felt like home.
I told the broker I’d call her for an appointment to see it again when I could bring my wife, hoping it wouldn't have an offer made on it before then.
When I got home, Sue was back, earlier than expected, so I excitedly told her about the condo. We went right back over and arrived in time to go through the unit again.
Sue liked it, too. We thought we’d like to make an offer, but needed to talk about it first, of course, and as we left, the broker gave us a hand-out containing all the details about the unit.
The hand-out said that the stately beech tree out front (directly opposite the front door of our unit) was the oldest tree in the city.
Since I knew the City Forester, I called him Monday morning and asked him if it was true.
He knew of other trees that were older, but to the best of his knowledge, it was the oldest beech tree in the city.
Other beeches, that would have been the same age or older, had been cut down a decade earlier to make room for another condo complex across-town.Our tree almost met the same fate. The complex has three buildings but the original plans called for 4. The 4th building was going where the beech tree stands.
But a public outcry, and a little fatherly advice from city officials, convinced the developer not to construct that 4th building. which saved that magnificent tree.
We bought the unit, of course, and the tree shades our building from the afternoon sun.
That was in 1998, and I’m still in awe of that beautiful tree, which sits about 65 feet from our front door. It towers to a height of about 80 feet and the trunk is some 30 feet in circumference.
Over the years, some of her huge lower branches were pruned or removed as they sustained damage from neighborhood adolescents who found them irresistible.
Those branches also encroached on our bank of mailboxes, a basketball hoop, and the stockade fencing surrounding our trash and recycling bins.
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Also over the years, a number of neighbors and city residents have carved their initials, various dates, and expressions of undying love into her trunk and lower branches.
But none of this, nor the work that's been done on her, has detracted one bit from her stately beauty.
Those of us who live in the complex share a common experience.
When explaining to people where it is we live, or when giving directions to visitors or delivery personnel, our words are often cut off with,
"Oh, you mean the place with that huge tree out front."
Neighbors outside the complex have told us similar stories. They tell us that our tree is a beacon for their guests.
When they're giving directions to someone who's unfamiliar with the area, they'll often say something like: "You'll come to a place with a huge tree in front...take your next right."
Or: "If you come to a place with a huge tree out front, you've gone too far."
Passersby can also enjoy the tree, for she sits only 60 feet from one of the busiest streets in the city.
The residents of our little complex often have to chase away children, and those old enough to know better, who can’t resist climbing onto her lowest branches.
We've even planted a little "please don't climb" sign in front of her.
It breaks our hearts to do that. We all feel that we're denying the children one of those “rights of passage;” but liability issues leave us with no other choice.
So we gently tell them they can look but not touch.
We had some "health care" performed on her in the spring if 2012, and the arborist who did the work estimated her age to be just south of 200 years.
Like us elderly people, our tree has her share of health problems. He felt that she's now entering what will probably be the final stage of her life.
Although she’s showing her age now, we're committed to a regular maintenance plan for her remaining years.
We'll see to it that she's fed according to a prescribed schedule; and that she will never go untreated for insect infestations or diseases.
We older residents in the complex will likely not be around when she drops her last leaf, but our diligent stewardship will ensure that complex inhabitants, and passersby alike, will be able to enjoy her awesome presence for as long as she has left.
A Sad 2016 Addendum
Our magnificent beech tree is no more. Following the Spring inspection by the arborist, our Board of Trustees was notified that the tree had an estimated 3 to 5 years of life remaining, but that indications were that the tree was unstable. The arborist broached the subject of removing it.
The Board called a meeting of the owners to discuss our options. Two of our buildings, a neighboring house, and the busy state highway we're situated on were within reach of falling branches should such a situation arise.
Out of safety and liability concerns, the owners reluctantly voted to have the tree removed. In August, 2016 the arborist sent a crew to remove the tree, an operation which took more than a day. It took 2 full days for the stump, being over 30 feet in circumference, to be ground down.
The process proved the owners' gut feelings to be right. Two thirds of the interior of the tree was rotted. A Category One hurricane would have likely been enough to endanger those within the shadow of the tree.
The tree's removal was the subject of press coverage, and we expected some public backlash. That never occurred. The arborist and the president of the Board of Trustees were interviewed and explained the reasons for the tree's removal.
Out and about, I've run into many friends and acquaintances who expressed their sadness at the tree's removal, but most understood and agreed with the reasons that made the move necessary. But, the encounters were wake-like.
So, there's a big space where that magnificent tree once stood. We can now see houses across the street that were formerly screened from view. We're presently considering what to do with that space. One owner suggested building a gazebo surrounded by ornamental plantings.
We're a small complex...just three buildings...and the gazebo could be used for complex get-togethers, or by individual owners to use for entertaining. I think that would be a wonderful way to honor the memory of our magnificent beech tree.