EDITORIAL: Tree decision curious but OK

The Oak Harbor City Council’s decision to try to save our favorite Garry oak tree rather than cut it down was curiously timed.

The timing was curious because the city had spent months planning the demise of the oak tree at the post office. The tree’s suspect health was thoroughly documented, followed by a public process to plan for the tree’s successor. The consensus was to retain part of the tree, turn it into a sculpture, and create a “pocket park” at an estimated cost of $30,000.

Less than a week before chainsaw day, Councilwoman Sheilah Crider led a mini-revolt, which culminated in a special meeting Friday and its 4-2 vote to spare the tree, at least for now. The council members who voted against the motion can hardly be criticized, as they simply wanted to concluded a process that dates back more than a year.

The majority showed a little more heart, however, figuring that the $30,000 would be better spent in an effort to save the tree, which has overlooked Oak Harbor since long before the city’s founding in the late 19th century. The consulting arborist suggested there is some hope for the tree despite its decaying roots, particularly if its asphalt-and-concrete environment can be improved upon.

The majority of the council risked a great deal in voting to make one last effort to save the tree. Should a branch fall in the immediate future and land on some unlucky post office customer, the finger pointing will begin immediately and lawyers will be lining up to represent the victim in court. But it may be worth a little risk to save a living landmark, particularly if one’s insurance premium is paid in full.

The tree now awaits a final decision on its fate. Even if the second opinion is that it must be cut down, the council has shown it did everything possible to save it. And forget about the expensive sculpture. The proper monument to any giant tree is its own stump. Little kids can play on it, big kids can loiter on it, and everyone can count the rings and marvel at its age. As long as the stump remains, the tree is not forgotten.

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