State College

Some residents irked as centuries-old tree cut down in Lemont

A burr oak tree is being removed along Shady Drive in Lemont June 30, 2015. The tree is over 250 years old and is listed in “Notable Trees of Centre County” by the Centre County Historical Society.
A burr oak tree is being removed along Shady Drive in Lemont June 30, 2015. The tree is over 250 years old and is listed in “Notable Trees of Centre County” by the Centre County Historical Society. CDT photo

It survived almost 300 years of harsh winters, blistering summers, flooded fields and the local wildlife.

But in the end, it couldn’t survive the march of progress and the blade of a chainsaw.

A giant tree that once stood off Shady Drive in Lemont has been cut down, to the dismay of some neighborhood residents. Crews began to take the tree down at about 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“The noise of the cutting woke me up, and I just started dialing everyone I could,” said Joyce Driscoll, who lives across the street.

The tree had stood since before the Revolutionary War and was recognized by the National Arborist Foundation in 1976 during bicentennial celebrations in the area, she said.

“And they cut it down the week of Independence Day,” she said. “Isn’t that lovely?”

But State College borough arborist Alan Sam said he was asked to look at the tree in 2008 and, at the time, he determined it was in “pretty bad shape.”

“(The tree) had quite a bit of deadwood in the crown (top),” he said. “It hadn’t seen much care recently.”

Sam said he drilled into the tree with a resistograph — a tool used to measure internal decay. About 70 percent of the tree had been compromised at the 2-foot mark, he said. Typically, township trees are taken down when they reach 33 percent compromised.

“If it were a tree in the woods with no potential targets around, we wouldn’t have to do anything with it,” he said.

Not only was Driscoll upset over the historic significance of the tree, she said, but also the flood control the tree helped provide to the neighboring properties. A drainage pipe installed by the township helps direct excess water into Spring Creek, but when the creek rises, water begins to rise on the properties.

“That tree used to be able to suck up a lot of water,” she said. “It had deep roots. Now all the surrounding houses are going to see more flooding, including mine.”

Driscoll also questioned the health of the tree, saying that, although an arborist had declared the tree diseased, it was actually quite healthy.

College Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh said cutting down the tree was “unfortunate,” but the township has no rules or regulations concerning trees on private properties that are not in the right-of-way of township roads.

The township made an offer in July 2009 to purchase the property for $38,000, he said, but the offer was refused by the owner.

“I’m absolutely positive this will be a topic of conversation going forward,” he said, “but I have no idea how the (township) council will address future situations of a like nature.”

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