In tree talk it’s called a “mortality spiral.”
Limbs start rotting and falling off, and what was once sturdy becomes a liability.
In real life, it was a chain saw massacre.
Friday morning, in front of the Trees Columbus downtown headquarters at 12th Street and Third Avenue a large water oak that was probably somewhere north of 75 years old, was taken apart limb by limb.
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“It’s like losing a friend,” said Dorothy McDaniel, executive director of Trees Columbus.
If it is like losing a friend for McDaniel, it’s like losing a member of the family for Kyle Spencer. The tree is in front of the Swift-Kyle House that has been in Spencer’s family since 1864. When he was a boy, it was his grandmother’s home. Today, it’s the Spencer Environmental Center.
“It has been there as long as I can remember,” Spencer said.
And he has been around for 82 years.
In the last week, it became obvious the tree had to come down. It had been dropping large limbs for several years. The latest one fell onto the 12th Street sidewalk last week.
“The last limb was 5 to 6 inches in diameter,” Spencer said. “If it had hit somebody, it would have been very serious.”
Jerome Hall was on the city of Columbus work crew taking down the tree.
“They are good to have around, but sometimes they have to come down — especially when they are a hazard to the citizens,” Hall said as he was piling up logs.
Daniel Thomas Sr. was the man with the job of cutting. Taking down a water oak that is more than 10 feet in circumference takes a lot of tools — and practice.
Thomas, who has worked as a tree cutter for the city for 13 years, had five chain saws for what he estimated would be a two-day job that will take hundreds of cuts.
“Look how big she is,” Thomas said. “She’s been here a long time and been through a lot.”
Two other water oaks just like it across from St. Luke United Methodist Luke have also been taken down.
The Trees Columbus folks tried to extend the life of the last one standing, but couldn’t.
“Once it reaches a point in the mortality spiral, you have to take it down,” McDaniel said. “This tree has far outlived its life span. Urban trees have a life span of 32 years.”
No one will know how old the tree was until the cutting is done. That’s when the counting of the rings will start.
The tree is being taken to the city landfill at Oxbow Meadows. Some of it is being scooped up for firewood.
Hall, the city worker helping take it down, chose to look at the old tree’s future and not its past.
“You could take that wood and heat a house for six or seven months,” he said. “That’s nothing but good firewood.”