The effort to save the large white oak tree at Signal Mountain’s Thrasher Elementary has failed, according to those close to the project.
Dubbed "Ms. Bea’s tree" for unknown reasons, the tree was scheduled to undergo a potentially life-saving aeration treatment on Saturday.
Noah Long is chairman of the Signal Mountain Tree Board. He was leading the efforts to save the tree.
"It is with great sadness that I report that Ms. Bea’s tree has passed the point of salvation," he said in a prepared statement. "The tree has crashed these past three weeks, exactly as professional arborists said it would, even with all the rain we have had. The root damage from ditching and the smothering of the balance of the root area kept the tree from recovering."
As reported, a construction project to fix drainage pipes at the school cut into the tree’s fragile feeder roots; the subsequent landscaping compacted the soil. Instead of dirt, pea gravel went on top of the ground, which failed to allow access to essential nutrients.
Throughout the project, Long said the Signal Mountain Tree Board could have offered advice but that their efforts were "ignored."
Airtech, a company out of Knoxville, offered to provide an aeration service to "decompact and feed the soil surrounding [the] tree without harming the root system."
Long said he could not in good conscience ask the company to provide the service considering the costs involved for the removal of dead limbs, a crown reduction and gravel overlay.
Despite the failure, Long hopes to use the remains of the tree as a natural playground for Thrasher students.
"From a positive standpoint, we can utilize the huge trunk to create 'rounds' for jumping, climbing and playing for all ... children," he said.
Long said he will discuss other tree options for the location with the school’s PTA. He hopes to have those planted by Arbor Day in March.
He concluded the note with this statement:
"To those who know me, you can appreciate that this is much like the agony of a decision to remove a loved one from life support."
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