Eastern’s historical roots were reduced to stump early August


Katie Smith | The Daily Eastern News Jason Schafer, an Eastern grounds worker, throws part of the bur oak tree into a wood-chipper outside Old Main August 8.

Katie Smith , Online Editor

The decaying trunk of Eastern’s oldest tree was pushed past its limits when a combination of the tree’s instability and poor weather conditions caused a limb to fall at about 5 a.m. August 8 outside Old Main.

Consequently, Eastern’s grounds workers spent the remainder of the day trimming the landmark down to a stump, while others debated plans to preserve the tree and put the remains to good use.

Regardless of the night’s wind and rain, the fallen limb was no more than a result of a tired and heavy tree, Vicki Woodard, the coordinator of public information at the university, said.

“They had already decided that once the tree became unsafe to be around they would take it down, and it just reached that point,” she said. “It was just too unsafe to keep it up any longer. It was a sad decision, but one that had to be made.”

Weighing thousands of pounds and standing about 100-feet tall, the tree is estimated to have been about 250-300 years old, establishing it as a part of Eastern older than it’s monumental castle, Old Main.

The potential harm the tree threatened, however, outweighed that of its historical importance to some of Eastern’s community, Scott Hall, superintendent of grounds, said.

“One of the reasons we took the tree down is because there’s a lot of weight when one of those branches comes down,” he said. “If the limb were to fall down at say 7:30 in the morning, someone could be seriously injured or killed.”

Plans to follow the tree’s removal have been in the works for about three years.

“We’ve talked about some plans of utilizing the wood to make various coasters, possible benches, gavels, things of that nature,” Hall added.

Grounds workers previously collected about 30-50 seedlings in anticipation of the tree’s demise, with plans to plant them throughout the community.

“As older trees decline and we have to remove them, that leaves opportunity to plant some newer trees,” he said.

Still, Woodard said she believes the university has lost a monument.

“I think there’s a lot of memories people associate with the tree. It’s been here for so many years and it’s touched so many lives,” she said. “Whether you had a class underneath it, or you had a romance underneath it, it’s just sad to see it go.”

Although exact plans for reuse of the tree’s usable wood are still unclear, plans to discuss possible actions are underway, Robert Zeigel, the director of facilities, planning of management, said.

“They’re going to take cross-sections of the tree and preserve those for historical purposes and they have already given portions of the wood to the biological sciences department for research purposes,” he said. “They’re going to look and see what the shape of the wood is in to decide what else they can do with it.”

Katie Smith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].