South Carolina community loses historic tree to weekend weather

Aiken SC- The weather this weekend caused an old, historic tree on Marion Street to collapse.

Neighbors who live near the tree said they heard it come down around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday. The more than century old tree has been known as a staple in Aiken and many are sad to see it go.

People in the community stopped by the site of their favorite tree on Marion Street to salvage a piece of what is left.

“It’s just been a beautiful tree and you just think of all the history,” said Gail Wilkinson.

The tree, which some call “Maid Marion,” is estimated to be around 150 years old. But it’s not just the long history of the White Oak, it’s also the memories.

“As a kid a lot of us used to come through and play on it, climb on it, and we used to play hide and seek all through here,” said Rick Watson.

The tree stood strong through a lot of change. The city said about 30 years ago cement blocks were installed inside the tree to keep it sturdy; two years ago the blocks were removed to assess damage and let it vent.

Many thought last year’s ice storm would bring the tree down, but it was this weekend’s rain that brought it to the tipping point.

“It died a natural death, instead of just with chainsaws, that would have made me very depressed,” said Wilkinson.

The city posted a sign on the tree about six weeks ago to take it down because it posed a threat to the community, but some neighbors say more should have been done to save the historic tree.

“The heartbreak here is that she didn’t have to come down, she could have been cabled, they were planning to reduce the crown branches by 15 percent, which would have lightened the load,” said Margaret Shealy.

Shealy, who lives down the street, said the city did not provide proper upkeep to keep the tree stabilized. She said she’s been working since July with master arborists to save the tree, but now it’s too late.

“I think the real tragedy of this tree coming down was that it was not recognized by the city as a historic tree a long time ago,” said Shealy.

Shealy wants people to learn a lesson from this situation as the community continues to be known for its trees.

“I hope that this will be a turning point for the City of Aiken to take more care of what is really our greatest resource,” said Shealy.

Even though people have been stopping by to grab a piece of the tree, the city would like the community to hold off on collecting any until a decision can be made on a safe way to clean up the area.

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