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  • KIRO 7 Seattle

    A 400-year-old oak tree is causing tension in Tumwater

    By Frankie Katafias,

    27 days ago

    Tensions are rising between the City of Tumwater and local activists over removing a 400-year-old Garry Oak Tree.

    On Friday, a Thurston County judge issued a stay on its removal, meaning that the City of Tumwater can’t cut down the tree until “further court order.”

    However, it’s important to note that the stay is not a permanent solution. Mayor Debbie Sullivan has expressed her concerns, stating that the tree poses a potential safety risk.

    Last year, a downed branch from this historic oak tree fell on the southbound lanes of Old Highway 99. According to a report by the city’s arborist, the inspection found that while the tree is in “good health,” “white rot” was found within its stem, which they believe could cause more downed branches.

    “If you were to cut that tree down and plant 1000 baby oak trees, they would not provide the equivalent habitat that that tree provides as it currently stands,” emphasized arborist Beowulf Brower.

    Brower, who is personally invested in saving this oak tree and works for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, understands the potential loss of habitat if the tree is removed.

    Brower also tells KIRO 7 News that after reading the report from the city’s arborist, he believes removing the tree is extreme.

    “This particular oak, the historicity of it is not in question. The tree has been here longer than Washington was a state, and the United States has been a country. It served as a waypoint on the Oregon Trail and, before that, the Cowlitz Trail,” said Brower.

    When asked whether the city would consider preventative maintenance, The city’s spokesperson, Joy Johnston, told KIRO 7 that extreme pruning would not be a “viable” or “helpful” option according to the city’s arborists.

    While there were concerns about whether or not the removal of this tree was related to expansion at the airport or along the highway, Johnston tells KIRO 7 there are no plans for either in the immediate area.

    This story is still developing. KIRO 7 will continue to follow the latest updates.

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