It took nearly two days of work by City contractors last week to cut down and remove a nearly 140-year-old American Elm on First Street in downtown Lake Oswego.
Using a bucket truck and a crane, crews from Tree Care Unlimited slowly dismantled the mammoth tree that has been on the City's Heritage Tree list since 1998.
It's an unfortunate event, City Planning Director Scot Siegel said, but a necessary one after the tree's trunk split in two and one of its massive limbs nearly came down on the apartment complex directly to its west — a tell-tale sign of tree failure.
According to Siegel, tree failures present a public safety concern. "If it hasn't already fallen" he told The Review, "it's imminent that it's either causing damage or threatening public safety."
Community members responded to the news with an outpouring of emotion on social media. Many shared their own experiences and memories of walking past or beneath the beloved tree.
"This one hurts," wrote Facebook user C.J. McNulty. "Having grown up in First Addition and having lived at the Iron House for a time, I am quite familiar with this tree and always marveled at how it dominated First Street. An old friend and Oswego pioneer has fallen. The neighborhood will never look the same."
Several commenters suggested that some of the wood from the tree could be salvaged for a local artist to use — an idea that has proved successful before.
According to Siegel, neighbors in the Lake Grove area have mobilized to save wood from one of several Douglas firs that will be removed as part of the Boones Ferry Road Improvement Project. They applied for money through the City's neighborhood enhancement grant program to turn the tree into a commemorative bench.
"With the American Elm, I understand there's been some interest in doing that because it was an iconic tree," Siegel said. "Although it's not currently funded or part of the City's capital improvement program, when the tree was removed we asked that they leave a good portion of the stump."
It's possible, he said, that all or part of that stump could be used for some sort of artistic project if local residents apply for a neighborhood enhancement grant.
According to Siegel, the timing of the tree's demise is fortuitous since the application for the next round of funding through the grant program opens next week.
For more information on the program, visit the City's website at www.ci.oswego.or.us/planning/neighborhood-enhancement-program-grants.
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