Tree Tech Consulting    The Knothole  Hop To Forum Categories  Construction & Hazards    Liberty Tree

Closed Topic Closed
Liberty Tree
<Bob Wulkowicz>
Just got back in town and am squatting at my own machine--actually it's still that damn Windoze beast and so I really must reassemble the old mac.

But I'm really writing to say that I rolled over a page in my Chicago Trib today and discovered Russ in an article.

The subject was a difficult one for me and I am compelled to ask the consideration of the saving of the tree. Granted that I have no first hand knowledge of it or the circumstances, but considering the status of the tree and this apparently national interest, I believe this can be an important demonstration project and would hope that things aren't locked in stone.

I also realize the sensitivities that can get involved in this sort of situation, so I'll not engage in any strident postures, but we must look at alternatives. Since I have also been a public safety designer for more than 15 years, I'd like to hold off the generalizations about hazardness for the moment and try to better understand the specifics.

Report This Post
<Russ Carlson>
Reply to post by Bob Wulkowicz, on October 19, 1999 at 23:05:47:

It is a sad thing to have to say a tree like this has to go. The analysis was complete, the results incontrovertible (IMO). This is a high use public area. We looked at alternatives, including various support systems. Part of the problem is cost. It is exorbitant to consider a system that will hold the tree up. Compare to SULE, with emphasis on the SAFE part. Finally, decay so progressed that there is almost nothing left to attach bolts or cables to. Not much else to say.
Report This Post
Reply to post by Bob Wulkowicz, on October 19, 1999 at 23:05:47:

Storms Wreck U.S. Liberty Trees

Associated Press

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 1999 at 9:15:13 a.m.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The last of the liberty trees - where American colonists
once incited rebellion against the British - will be cut down because of extensive
damage from storms and decay.

St. John's College, where the 400-year-old tulip poplar is located, accepted the
recommendation of a tree expert that it is unsafe and must come down.

Winds from Hurricane Floyd last month fractured the trunk and the tree now
endangers anything near it, arborist Russell Carlson said in a report to the state
and St. John's College.

The college has not yet set a date for cutting down the tree, spokeswoman
Barbara Goyette said in a statement Monday night.

Liberty trees where the Sons of Liberty met and plotted the American Revolution
existed in most if not all of the 13 colonies and were a potent Revolutionary War
symbol. Maryland's is the last surviving Liberty Tree.

At least two were destroyed by British forces, said Edward Papenfuse, Maryland
state archivist.

``In Boston, they chopped the tree into 14 cords of wood and used it as
firewood for the soldiers. In Charleston, they were so intent on eradicating the
tree that they burned the stump,'' Papenfuse said. Others were cut down or lost
to disease or old age, he said.

In a report submitted Oct. 9, Carlson said ``despite a monumental effort'' to
protect Maryland's tree, it ``is now structurally weakened to a degree that it
poses a hazard to any person or object within reach of its branches.''

Despite the great care given by St. John's College, including preservation efforts
as far back as 1907, the tree suffered many hardships over the years, including
lightning strikes and damage from earlier hurricanes, Carlson said.

It is largely held together with concrete and metal cables. Any more elaborate
artificial support, Carlson said, ``would be an obtrusive and ignominious life
support system for this grand old champion.''

``Finally, it is time to say goodbye to our old friend,'' Carlson wrote.

Mike Morrill, spokesman for Gov. Parris Glendening, said the governor was
``extraordinarily sad that the arborist did not have better news.''

The tree has at least one offspring growing nearby. And this spring, state
officials arranged for cuttings to be taken from the tree so clones could be
produced as part of a millennium celebration.

Louise Hayman, director of the commission that handled the procedure, said
Monday the cloning appears to be going well, but scientists won't know until the
end of the year if it will succeed.

If it does, a new tree will be planted in Annapolis and seedlings will be presented
to the 49 other states.
Report This Post
<Scott Cullen>
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on October 19, 1999 at 23:05:47:

"It is exorbitant to consider a system....."

I'd add one observation here Russ. If we assume the common meaning of exorbitant as "excessive" that is really an owner or community decision. The arborist (or engineer, whoever...) can estimate that a particular solution will be expensive but whether the expense is excessive is a value judgment.

It may well be that the tree will not accept the solution... as in your example there is not enough sound wood to attach any support system to. In that case there really is no solution so expense is not an issue.

If, however, there is a solution then the value in implementing it is up to the beneficiary of that value.

A case in point is the Balmville tree in NY State. After much community outcry and expert opinions for both remove and retain options, community groups raised the necessary money ($20,000 sticks in my mind) and obtained in-kind services from the local utility company to erect a steel tower next to the tree to guy the tree to. The system was specced by ACRT, so one might assume proper arboricultural considerations were made.

One might have commented that the same expenditure applied to replacement trees would deliver more benefit in the form of canopy volume over time to the community. But physically measureable function or biomass is not the same as the value perceived by the community in the historic significance of the tree.

I think the point is that the Useful part of SULE is very much a user decision. The arborist provides opinion on Safe and on Life Expectancy. The user decides what U/LE is worth in terms of expenditure.
Report This Post
<Russ Carlson>
Reply to post by Scott Cullen, on October 20, 1999 at 14:59:09:

ex-or-bi-tant [adj] 1: not coming within the scope of the law 2: exceeding in intensity, quality, amount, or size the customary or appropriate limits. (syn. see excessive)

Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 10th Edition

I agree the common usage is applied to money. However, when we look at definition #2, exceeding the customary or appropriate limits, it can be argued that the arborist can make a recommendation on this point. The work necessary to preserve this tree, regardless of the monetary cost, exceeds the customary and, IMO, the appropriate limits.

The assignment included my opinion of possible alternatives to removal, and those were explored within the limits of my expertise. Suggestions were made on options to maintain the tree, with a critique of each option and what it would mean in the long term. The final decision, of course, was left to those with a vested interest in the tree, not this arborist.
Report This Post
<Mark Hartley>
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on October 21, 1999 at 07:29:34:

Russ you asked for that by giving a value judgement. Exorbitant ... how
often do you deal with a tree of national impotance. Trees get moved just
because they look good and that can cost more than a hundred thousand dollars.

I am not sure what exorbitant is except subjective in this case. Still this is
not my concern.

I would rather have a half of something than all of nothing. Dont these trees
sucker. Here is (IMHO) at time when overpruning /topping etc may be the way to go????

Report This Post
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on October 21, 1999 at 07:29:34:

I think we agree Russ. It certainly is appropriate for the arborist to give an opinion and make a recommendation... say "in my opinion this tree can be stabilzed for $x, and since it may die in 5 years is not worth the investment."

But as you say "The final decision, of course, was left to those with a vested interest in the tree, not this arborist."

Say the board of the institution where the tree is located believes that it fulfills its mission if 2,000 school children a year see the tree and get a history lesson and that the imputed cost per lesson is $5. That's 5yrs. x 2,000 x $5 = $50,000. They are break even on their mission at a $50,000 stabilization cost. That's their decision.

Or say a resort knows from experience and departing guest surveys that 1,000 room nights a year at $100 net income per unit can be attributed to the historic tree. That's $500,000 in income attributed to the tree. Keeping it for 5 years allows them to develop alternate attractions or marketing avenues. Again it's their decision.

The point is that many final decisions rest with an owner. Arborists properly provide factual information. They may also provide management plans and recommendations for action including various alternatives. The implications are seen in a range of situations as have been described here on Knothole and other forums as well. VALUE in a tree appraisal is the value to the owner or other stated beneficiary. Acceptance or abatement of RISK posed by a potential tree failure is an owner decision. BUDGETING maintenance and management expense over time is an owner decision. (In the latter two examples the arborist may, indeed, have been delegated the authority to make the decisions, but that is a different situation.)

I think it is important to recognize the limits on both the duties / responsibilities / liabilities and the authority of the arborist as an independent expert.
Report This Post
<Russ Carlson>
Reply to post by mark Hartley, on October 21, 1999 at 21:10:29:

Trying not to sound too defensive....

First, my comment on a support system being exorbitant was made here, on this forum, not in any report to my client. It is a public statement, since this forum is open, but I consider it outside my fulfillment of the assignment. My professional opinion was stated in my report, and it was quoted (accurately) in the AP Wire articles I have seen. I did not use the word Âexorbitant in my report, nor in any conversation with the press, and have not seen it quoted there. So this discussion must be considered within the context of this forum.

Second, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH. I may not agree with your opinion on keeping a little bit of the tree, albeit badly disfigured and dishonored, but will defend your right to hold such an opinion!

There were many persons involved in making the decision on the fate of this tree, from several agencies, and representing a broad range of views. The decision was considered carefully, and the alternatives weighed. I was the last of about 4 or 5 arborists to inspect the tree, and was asked to provide the most detailed report, which I did. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was condemn the tree, if viable alternatives could be found.

The good news is that there is a "seedling" from this tree, planted about 50 yards away, that is now over 120 years. Efforts are already underway to clone the Liberty Tree.

FWIW, I will ask my clients for permission to release my report on this forum, if you guys are interested.
Report This Post
<Mark Hartley>
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on October 22, 1999 at 07:09:54:


I am not at all questioning your report and yes I would love
to read it because I would learn from it. What you are doing is
copletely new to me because as a white settlement we are only just
over 200 years old and historically do not have many important trees.

To be able to have such a living connection with the past is truely awsome
from my perspective. As a result I differ with your view of difigured and mutilated.
To me that is like saying that people who are the victims of tragic accidents
who now have disfigurd boddies should not live.

The real concern about topping is not topping itself but that it is done to
perfectly good trees. It is like mutilating a perfectly healthy child so that it can beg.

Now before I get a sermon on it from everyone I know that trees are not people...
but there is nothing wrong with looking at slow decline and death. It may not be
a prety site ... aging and dying isnt but it sure is natural.

We have all seen great photos of old trees that are nothing more than the remnants of what
was once a mighty trunk with suckers groing from the side. This is true magesty and beaty to me
Here nature is showing survival at its best.

Perhaps as arborists we should help the public understand and when appropriate accept the greatness
of this wonderful battle of life and death.

Brethren, todays reading is from John chapter...
Report This Post
<Stephen Wiley>
Reply to post by Mark Hartley, on October 22, 1999 at 16:00:50:


Unfortunately, living on the West coast I have not seen the particular "Liberty Tree". And until reading these posts was not aware of there historical existence. I have learned more and appreciate the value it has served from the attention recently given it. (albeit's unfortunate demise).

I clearly see your point and commend you on the thought that though it be damaged and ugly it remains a reminder. However, I am concerned in what I read that the interactive desires stated by those of interest will certainly cause a public safety issue.

Not to far from my home is a much lesser know historical tree. In fact, I would venture to say that people living within this area are even aware of its existence. And I am quite sure that the majority of arborists in this area (PNW, Oregon) do not know it exists. The tree was not purposely planted as a tree, but rather as a dicarded riding whip.

This tree is still on the homestead where it was planted far from any target and with little human interest.

Whereas, the 'Liberty tree' is on a college campus where the potential increased interest may lead to vandalism in addition to the liability of risk. Can the school or the community afford the potential suit for Tom Foolery? Further, I suppose a fence could be built to try to maintain and prevent interaction. But the combination of the fence, concrete and wire bracing does not leave me with the impression of a prudent decision. Additionaly, the continued "stress" is an open invitation for introduction and innoculation of other surrounding trees.

My personal opinion is the right decision has been made. And efforts to preserve and protect the offspring "... 50 yards away" will continue the legacy.


Instead, the efforts to
Report This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  

Closed Topic Closed

Tree Tech Consulting    The Knothole  Hop To Forum Categories  Construction & Hazards    Liberty Tree

© 1997-2003 Tree Tech Consulting. All messages are the property of the original author.