Bicentennial Tree

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It’s hard sometimes to say goodbye to things we’ve loved. This week, we bid farewell to an icon that has lived its useful life and became sick and dangerous.

The large cottonwood tree in the middle of Bicentennial Park near the pond has been showing serious signs of decay and age for quite some time. We had it evaluated by four ISA Certified Arborists who rate individual trees and the hazard they may cause do to instability and other criteria. On a scale of 1-12 (the higher the number, the more dangerous) the large cottonwood was a 10.

It’s unfortunate that we need to face the reality that trees don’t live forever. But that is the truth.

One major concern with this specific cottonwood is its location. With it being in one of the busiest areas of the park, the potential for something very unsafe occurring increases. This tree has large, heavy branches any of which could case severe damage or even take a life.

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The tree has two main trunks with what is called “included bark” which weakens the structure of any tree.  The close up pictures above show the trunks and rotten, seeping wood between the two which indicates interior decay.  In addition, the almost horizontal branch could fail if interior decay becomes too great for the tree to support the weight of the branch.

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The tree is heavily weighted to one side which is causing stress on the included trunk as shown above.

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Lastly, the tree has many defects (like tip dieback and the slime flux shown in the above shot) that have not been healing properly leaving us with the hard decision of removal as the best option.

This is not the only tree in our city that we as residents love but are no longer healthy. At some point we need to start a discussion on how to responsibly remove and replace them. Several were planted years ago in road basins and have simply run out of space.

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  1. Summer

    So sad. But all the information you gave makes it easy to see it needs to come down. Thanks for keeping us so informed.

  2. Brian

    It’s always sad to see any life form go, but all life forms have a life span. The greater question is can it live on in another form! Is there any talk of harvesting the wood to make a shade structure pergola, or some benches, entry sign or some other feature in the park? It would be fun to have it continue to serve in the park rather than being reduced to mulch. Also love the idea of an expanded tree maintenance program. I recommend getting with the faculty at BYU in the Landscape Management department. BYU has an incredible tree maintenance program in conjunction with arboriculture classes and maybe they could help establish an ongoing tree management program together with the City of Provo.

    1. Bobbie Henderson

      Thoughtful citizens with solutions

    2. David Shepherd

      Amazing ideas!

    3. David

      It’s not sad when mosquitos die. That is all.

  3. andrew

    Beautiful tree! When it comes down, what about making slices of the trunk available to residents who might be interested in making a log burl table or something similar?

  4. Bobbie Henderson

    A discussion ahead of time would certainly help lessen the shock for unknowing citizens who wake up to find something that has always been part of our lives is being taken without any question to the public of what they value more. Being able to use the space where the tree is or being willing to sacrifice some space in a massive park to let the decaying process (which could take another 40-60 years) play out for such an amazing elder. The decaying process of these old trees is fascinating in its own right. You could trust the citizens of Provo to use caution when around something fragile like this tree. Posting a sign indicating the danger of standing too close would be understood, even a barricade could cover any liability the city is afraid of. I was told today a tree once fell and killed people in south fork… Well people have also drowned in Salem pond so we best get on draining the pond here at bicentennial right away. I know it’s your job to make a sound statement when decisions like this are made but as someone who would have loved another 20 years looking upon this old cottonwood, discussing the aging of trees with children or just standing in awe of something so much older than myself, enjoying the steady energy offered..that feeling that weathering life’s storms is possible, I feel disappointment in our city officials here in Provo. I feel this decision was kept from the public and even heard one of the guys who came down in business clothes this morning say “it’s not as hollow as we thought it would be, we may have to find another reason”. Last thing the men doing the hard work of removing this tree should not have to field all public inquiry or outcry while trying to do their job. It is the job of you public officials to handle that ahead of time and you should thank the team out there for being so kind and compassionate to everyone stumbling up bewildered by what they are seeing. Those guys have been more than generous with whatever knowledge and consolation they can offer. It’s you in your offices that should be seeing all of the tears shed by your citizens the last few days.

    1. Alex Grover

      The reality is that tree workers always have to field questions about the work we do no matter how much communication was done before hand. It is also a sad reality that a hazard tree doesn’t not become safer with signs and education. If the city were to do as you ask, they would have to deal with citizens out raged at the risks they were putting on the public and the potential of a law suit as well as the real and scary risk of tragidy waiting to happen.

      1. Lisa

        Bobbie is right, there could have been other options to at least consider, and time given to those that have loved that magnificent tree. Knowing this, hopefully the next time will be a little different.

      2. Alex

        Funny thing is, all these opptions for keeping the tree are coming from people that know nothing about tree care, tree biology, or even top level labdscape care.

        And honestly, I would expect some of the same people that are upset about the tree not being saved would be the first to sue the city if a limb fell on them.

      3. Brian

        @Lisa. I doubt the city just woke up one day and decided to cut down the tree. As mentioned in the post. Four separate arborists inspected the tree. Surely they considered all options. That is what they are trained to do. and that is why they were consulted. There were other options, they just didn’t hold up to expert consultations. Trees have lifespans just like all lifeforms. This one was at the end of it’s life.

  5. Bobbie Henderson

    Andrew you should go down there ASAP and get your piece the rest is going to a guy in Payson.

    1. Bobbie Henderson

      Oh yes it is down to the trunk

  6. Alex Grover

    What kind of tree is going to replace it? I would love to see a bald cypress or swamp white oak.

  7. Rosie Skinner

    This is very helpful and glad you answered the concerned citizens, but next time some advance notice to let people bid farewell as they are sentimental would be great. Even some sort of little ceremony would be fun!

  8. Ryan

    What about all the trees along the Parkway that just got bulldozed?

    1. John

      Ryan – Great questions. While those trees are removed to make room for the BRT project, they’ll be replaced. For each tree that goes, five more will be planted.

      -John

  9. Bobbie Henderson

    If we as a city can’t plan and build around the living things that have been here long before we were, maybe it’s time for new city planners/developers. Valuing some lives over others seems arbitrary especially considering the many risks each of us takes with our mortality daily. Logic can be found but it isn’t sound….I wish for a day citizens get outraged l….the things that put us at risk are far more serious than a trees that are getting old. That tree deserved attention and I appreciate everyone’s input even when we don’t agree.

    1. John

      Bobbie – Thanks for the input. The tree was dying and had a hole in the middle large enough to fit a full grown man in. The hazards of leaving it in the park rot and decay in the park wasn’t an option. Outrage doesn’t address the fact the tree was no longer healthy and was only a matter of time before something serious occurred.

      -John

    2. Brian

      Bobbie I understand your frustration for losing such an iconic tree. It is always sad to see something that seems so permanent taken away. In addition to the mayor’s comment the included bark issue was causing the tree to push against itself literally pushing itself over. This is a problem of a tree having two trunks from a young age. The trunks grow beside each other until they hit. They don’t graft together, they just keep growing as if they are two separate trees. It is a problem that had to be addressed when the tree was very young. It wasn’t addressed. There is no fix for this problem for a tree this old. It was doomed quite a long time ago.

      1. scott Jacobson

        does anyone have any idea how old the tree was? I always wondered and guessed about 150 yrs min.

  10. Tara

    I wish there had been an announcement made BEFORE it was cut. I’ve wanted to paint that tree and I would have taken a bunch of pictures if I’d known it was coming out. Like many things in life, we put things off thinking we have “plenty of time”… but unlike the tragic accidents this was meant to avert, this was not a sudden, unforeseen event nor a spur of the moment decision. Just as an announcement was made as to WHY the tree is now gone, an announcement of it’s impending demise could also have been made, allowing those of us who wanted to “say goodbye” the opportunity to do so.

    1. Josh

      Which decisions should the city consult with all of the public and which forums should those topics be raised. Facebook? Mailers? Go house to house and take a survey of who is for it and who is against it? It seems like that would slow down the city government more so than it already is. I agree with you that it is good to say goodbye to something you love. But the problem with a city is every citizen loves something different and they can’t be expected to inform every citizen on every matter that is going to happen whether short term or long term. It just isn’t possible. We just have to trust that they did everything they could which as a tree expert myself from a different city, I believe they did.

  11. Tree

    Trees live for thousands of years….So heal the tree. Don’t cut it down.

    1. Brian

      Certain trees live for thousands of years. (bristlecone pines, sequoias, etc.) cottonwoods have about a 100 year lifespan. That is why they produce so much cotton. They live on by constant regeneration. Not longevity of individual species.

      1. Bobbie Henderson

        Brain, cottonwoods can live up to 400 years in good growing conditions. The count so far of the rings of this particular cottonwood were 150! Pretty cool. Also check out some photos of the said split truck once they were through the base pretty interesting… I’m so happy this forum filled up public discussion creates compassion and understanding for all points of view and reminds everyone holding office that citizens are interested in being engaged 🙂

      2. brian

        Yes Bobbie, Cottonwoods can live up to 400 years. In forests, and native habitats. A city park is not a native habitat. And those lifespans are the exceptions. Typically cottonwoods only live for 70-100 years. If this one was at 150, that is a very respectable age. This tree did not have good growing conditions. Lawn is bad for trees that are accustomed to forests. And the aforementioned included bark issue is not a good growing condition. This tree had a good run. Experts who study trees for a living deemed it dying and unsafe to continue. You can’t heal a tree. Trees don’t heal wounds, they seal wounds off. In the forest, let it die naturally. In a city park, safety has to be considered as well as allowing a new healthy tree to grow in it’s place.

    2. Alex

      The statement that trees live thousands of years is a falsehood. Some trees can live thousands of years. Poplars and cotton woods do not. Especially near humans. And in the middle of lawns. Lawn care practices are heck on trees!

  12. Bobbie Henderson

    Alex you don’t have to be unkind. I have been observing nature all of my life. No I didn’t study in trees in a school but I have seen many hollowed cottonwood trunks and trees in all stages of life. I observe closely and reverently all of the cycles around me. Aging and decay is part of the life cycle …all of us are going through the process as we speak. Our society as is, is inherently uncomfortable with aging and death I don’t expect trees to be exempt from this discomfort but I will speak my mind when I feel life is cut short. I would not hold a city liable if an act of nature took my life or I was injured while exploring nature even in a city park. You could try smiling more and maybe hug one of the many trees you study and work with.

    1. Bobbie Henderson

      Typo ☺️ I did study in trees ha but I did not study trees in a school

      1. Alex

        You call me unkind, then you go on to hint (hopefully unintentionally) that those that care for trees only limit themselves to their formal education. The good ones have been studying their whole lives and continue that study, both from books and everyday live.

        You tell me to smile, but then cut yourself off from the idea that I smile when I work with trees. The smiling stops when I deal with those trying to direct things with good intentions, but do not have the practical and functional experience to make those good intentions work.

        If you really want to save trees like this one, why not spend some time with an arborist or spend some time reading some books on the subject. Heck, you could even study to become an arborist yourself.

        The cost of the ISA study material and test is remarkable reasonable and might help round out your lifelong study. I myself would love to see more neighborhood experts that are qualified to soundly guide their neighbors in good tree care and safety.

        And if you ever can come up with ways to save trees like this without compromising safety and tree health in a scientific and economically sound fashion I will gladly listen to you. Most arborists and tree care professionals would. That is, unless you start up front and belittle their very hard and real efforts to do the best they can at their jobs.

        And let’s be real here, nobody likes to have that done to them. Nobody!

  13. Bobbie Henderson

    Well written Alex. I do appreciate the things you said and I apologize if I made it sound like your only interest in trees comes from the point of logic. To make it your passion in life clearly indicates you care about trees on many levels. This event has sparked my interest in learning more on the scientific side of trees and their needs/patterns etc. It has also inspired me to find old trees in and around my city and get them recognition before they become dangerous. I was surprised this oak wasn’t on the list of historical trees in Provo. Thank you for your comments and understanding. This has been emotional for me as I have been visiting that tree since I was 10 years old. I spent many nights writing and musing in the nook just under her “fat” pockets. I’d love to find out how and why those form…. Cheers!

    1. Bobbie Henderson

      Then I said oak and not cottonwood I better just call it

    2. Alex

      Thank you!

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