By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
The city of Daytona Beach was founded in 1876 amid a forest of live oak trees, according to Guy Meilleur of The Australian Arbor Age. Most of those trees were felled in the process of creating the city. Some still survive and are considered historic trees.
In January 2012, about 50 miles southeast of Ormond Beach, just below Sanford, one of the world's oldest cypress trees caught fire and burned. It was estimated to be 3,500 years old. An historic tree for sure.
At the northern end of Ormond Beach, along Old Dixie Highway, is Bulow Creek State Park, home to the Fairchild Oak, one of the largest live oak trees in the southern U.S. Originally thought to be more than 2,000 years old, it since has been re-evaluated to be 400-450 years old. Still, it is quite an historic tree.
But how many historic trees does an area need? Is one enough; is 10 too many?
And what actually makes a tree historic? Above are some examples of historic trees and what made them historic.
According to Jeff Kreuger, a photographer, naturalist and creator of the Historic Tree Project, "What makes a tree historic is ... a subjective judgment. Every tree has its own history of time and events, seasons and storms." He equates historic trees to be those that have "witnessed important events (or figures) in the history of our nation (and) their relation to human history."
Just like anything else, historic trees can also be "faked." To save a particularly large oak tree from developers, an early 20th century journalist concocted a story about how this tree had served as a treaty site for local Indian Tribes. The tale was so convincing, the Alfred duPont Foundation purchased the tree and donated it to the city of Jacksonville where it still stands near the center of town. It is now known as The Treaty Oak.
On Ormond Beach's Coolidge Avenue, near the railroad tracks, is a small forest. The owner of the land wishes to build an office/warehouse building on the lot, which would require the removal of the trees. That wouldn't normally be a problem, except right near the center of the forest grows an "historic" tree. By city code, if an historic tree is not deteriorated or endangering public safety, it cannot be removed except by approval of the Ormond Beach City Commission.
The Environmental Improvement Officer as well as the City Landscape Architect visited the site and "determined that the tree needs to be removed in order to build the office/warehouse."
Visiting the site the specific tree could not be located in the forest. In canvassing nearby citizens, there were none that knew about the tree, let alone why it was historic. It also appears there is no special city permitting fee to remove the tree. The tree's removal cost is presumably the responsibility of the owner of the property and no special tree service is required.
A call to Ormond Beach City Engineer John Noble produced the answer of why this tree was historic. He said, "Any tree 36 inches or (more in diameter) would be considered a historic tree." He also agreed one could arrive at a "guestimated" age based on its diameter.
Further research revealed the Ormond Beach City Land Development Code defines "a historic tree as a ... tree with an estimated age of over 100 years and a diameter of 36 inches or greater and/or trees designated as a historic tree by the City Commission."
So, at the Feb. 19 Ormond Beach City Commission meeting, the Commissioners "found no practical alternative than to approve and authorize the removal of the tree."
So, it's history.