Residents, passersby say goodbye to Forest Grove sequoia
Contractors got to work Thursday, March 8, removing a nearly 150-year-old sequoia in the 2400 block of 18th Avenue.
The tree work drew a small crowd to observe from Rogers Park, including neighbors, residents from elsewhere in the Forest Grove area and even a few people from further afield.
"It's been interesting to watch," said Ron Hundley, who lives in Forest Grove.
Hundley described himself as a lifelong Forest Grove resident — in other words, someone who knows the tree across the street from Rogers Park well.
"It's sad, but I'm not against them taking it down," said Hundley.
The homeowners decided to remove the tree because of ongoing property damage it has been causing to their house. The tree's roots are believed to have infiltrated storm lines connecting the house to the municipal storm sewer system, and the house's foundation has been damaged by them as well.
"I'm really sad to see it coming down, but it's kind of destroying their house," said Deb Butler, who lives in Yamhill but has family in the neighborhood around Rogers Park.
It's a bittersweet occasion for homeowner Kari Fitzgerald. The house and tree have been in her family for six generations, she said, and she has lived there herself for 20 years.
At the same time, Fitzgerald admitted, she is "really ready to be done" with the arduous process of removing the tree.
"I'm done — we just need this done," she said.
Fitzgerald told the News-Times that a branch from the tree fell on the house and porch last winter.
Butler went through a similar experience with one of Yamhill's old white oak trees, she said, so she understands some of the issues Fitzgerald and her family have faced.
Even still, Butler said it is "always sad to see something that age lose its life."
The sequoia will live on in several places, though, including Rogers Park across the street.
Fitzgerald agreed to give the City of Forest Grove its pick of the wood from the tree, at a low sale price, for use in a "nature play area" that will be built at the park this summer. That play area will be dedicated in the name of 6-year-old Anna Dieter-Eckerdt and 11-year-old Abigail Robinson, two Forest Grove girls who were struck and killed by a car as they played in a pile of leaves in the 1700 block of Main Street in 2013.
Multiple people have approached Fitzgerald and her husband about buying some of the wood from the sequoia, she said, but she is holding off until the city takes its share.
"We wanted to make sure that the park got what they wanted and needed," Fitzgerald said.
The regional government Metro has also taken some of the branches from the sequoia for use in one of its parks, too, Fitzgerald added.
"It's good the wood's going to be used for something good," said Hundley as he watched the contractors work Thursday.
Also observing the contractors' work Thursday: Brian Lacy of Portland-based Urban Bees and Gardens. Lacy plans to preserve and relocate a section of the tree containing a beehive, about 25 feet up, to the Fernhill Wetlands at the south end of Forest Grove.
Lacy described himself as "very optimistic" the hive will be able to be saved. He's worked on projects like this before, he said.
Part of the mission of Lacy's group is to conserve bees and place "beetrees" in natural areas.
"We don't disturb their home at all. We just give them a new location," Lacy said.
With a laugh, he added, "They'll be a lot closer to the ground."
Fitzgerald praised the professional work of the contractors on the project. General Tree Service, which came out last month to remove the tree's major limbs despite snow showers, was back out at the scene Thursday, along with personnel and equipment from NessCampbell Crane & Rigging.
The contractors worked carefully to section the tree trunk, which formerly towered over the Clark Historic District in Forest Grove, and then take off each segment and set it on the closed-off street.
The beehive area on the tree trunk was covered to protect it during Thursday's work.
Work is expected to continue into Friday.
Fitzgerald said that "eventually," the homeowners will grind down the stump as required by city code. But she said they want to leave it standing for a while.
"I think I want to sit back a little bit and give people a chance to look at it," she said. "There's been so much, so many drive-bys and people wanting to look at this."
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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