2012-08-09 / Front Page
Giant oak crashes down on Hampshire
Tree believed to be 400 years old falls near business
The 50-foot valley oak fell on private property some time in the middle of the night in front of the company’s office on Hampshire Road, causing no damage but creating quite a mess for employees to find when they returned to work on Monday.
According to Rebecca Loving Nichols, Fidelity’s human resources administrator, a large branch from the tree fell two weeks earlier. Worried another could come crashing down, the company contacted Jeff Melichar, the building’s owner, Loving- Nichols said.
“There was another branch nearly touching the ground,” she said. “I was concerned that someone could get hurt.”
When he learned of the tree’s condition, Melichar, whose building also houses the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, roped off the area and contacted the city to apply for a tree-trimming permit.
“When the city made it out on Monday (Aug. 6) to check on the tree’s health, it had fallen over the weekend,” Loving-Nichols said.
“They said, ‘I guess your permit doesn’t need to be applied anymore.’”
Kevin Wilson, the city’s landscape maintenance supervisor, said that, because of the tree’s location, it is ultimately the property owner’s responsibility.
“If the tree is not located in the public service easement in a right of way area, it’s typically considered to be a private property tree,” he said.
Dave Mortimer, owner of Mortimer Tree Service, said the tree suffered from root rot disease, a slow and continuous decaying process.
“These large trees have the ability to live with decay for centuries. When they get this old, gravity takes over and they succumb to it,” he said.
The disease, which is not preventable, is hard to spot, Mortimer added.
“This disease doesn’t affect the vascular system of the tree, (so) it looks really good until it falls down.”
Mortimer, a certified arborist, said the tree’s collapse uncovered two active beehives housed within its branches.
“They were huge,” he said of the hives. “One was 6 feet long and the other one was 3 feet long.”
Fidelity employee Mary Mooney called the bees vicious. The insects swarmed the area until a pest company came out.
“They were attacking everyone coming to the front door. We had to tell people to walk around to the back.”
But worse things could happen, Mooney said.
“No cars or people were underneath (the oak)—thank God.”
The tree, which has been removed from the property, will be missed, Loving-Nichols said.
“It brought such beauty to that side of the street.”
It was a landmark, she added.
“Whenever anyone called for directions, we’d say, ‘We’re right by the big oak tree.’ I hope they plant another.”