Lexington Moves To Protect Oldest Trees

LEXINGTON, KY -- One big tree is on the north side of town, one on the south side. Both have stood their ground for perhaps three centuries, since long before there was a Lexington, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition.

In the last several weeks, the two "pre-settlement" bur oaks have been threatened by chain saws and bulldozers.

The north side tree was wounded but survived. The south side tree probably will be preserved, but it is not yet out of the woods, reports the Herald-Leader.

Just being around living things that have been here for several hundred years, weathering storms, giving shade, producing oxygen and enduring, stirs something in people.

The chance of losing them, and others like them, has spurred discussion on how the city can do more to protect the dwindling number of large, spreading bur oaks, chinquapin oaks and blue ashes found in the city and the surrounding countryside, the Herald-Leader reports.

Also a part of the discussion: To what extent are large old trees a community asset, even when they are on private property?

The twin threats coming so close together caught the attention of the Lexington Tree Board, which started work last week to protect the "heritage trees." The board hopes to have an ordinance ready to send to the mayor for Urban County Council consideration in time for Arbor Day next spring, the newspaper reports.

Karen Angelucci, the tree board's chairwoman, talked at a meeting Wednesday about an ordinance that covers trees on public property, and private trees that are nominated by their owners.

But Tim Queary, the city's urban forester, said he would like to see something stronger.

If a tree has been standing for centuries anywhere in Fayette County, he said, it should get special consideration, reports the newspaper.

"We should be able to say this tree really belongs to the community, and in order to remove it, there would have to be a permitting process," Queary said.

A couple of weeks ago, a tree-service truck pulled up to the oak behind the Four Points Sheraton in North Lexington. Workers began cutting limbs in preparation for taking the whole tree down.

The hotel's owner and the owner of the tree service disagree over whether the work was authorized, but people driving by on Newtown Pike or Interstate 64-75 saw what was happening and started calling City Hall, reports the newspaper.

Officials did some quick research and found that in 1996, when a McDonald's was built next door on what was then hotel property, the development plan showed the old oak tree and specified that it must be preserved.

The oak has some missing and abbreviated limbs, but it still stands.

Regardless of whether the hotel wanted the oak cut down, Queary said, it could have been a goner, because trees on private property have no protection, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Copyright - The Lexington Herald-Leader

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