This morning, we lose an old friend – a heritage white oak tree that probably sprouted during the Civil War. Rich estimates that it’s at least 50,000 days old and well over a million people have walked under its branches in the last 40 years. If you’ve been to the Nature Center, you are one of those million. The tree sat at the edge of our parking lot, guarding the Otis Road entrance. She never got a name, like Old Henry, but she was a beauty with her network of gnarled limbs forming a perfect canopy to shelter the critters – human and otherwise – who passed through and beneath her.
While lovely to look at, she was also becoming a hazard. When Rich went to New Jersey to help his parents following Hurricane Sandy, he saw first-hand how much damage large, old trees can do in a storm. While still appearing fairly healthy on the outside, they have already begun to rot internally and become unstable. A big storm comes along and over they go, onto houses, power lines, roads and even people. That was our concern. If the tree stood anywhere else on the property, we would have left her to topple over and degenerate in her own time, as we did with Old Henry. We consulted several foresters and other professionals but in the end, it was safety first and she had to come down.
We have plans for this beautiful oak. The trunk will be taken to a local sawmill and the boards put to good use. We’ll save some of those most unique limbs and others will fuel our sap evaporator when maple syrup season begins.
It’s a good lesson for all of us. Nothing lasts forever. Have your trees checked regularly and be proactive. When the decay begins, take it down. Then do as we plan to do…plant a new one in its place. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” So as we mourn the passing of this heritage oak, we look forward to welcoming a new member of the family come spring.