Gerald and June Meyers are dwarfed by the whopper of a locust tree behind them. It is 103 feet tall and measures 155 inches around. This is the third time they've won in the last four years.
SWANTON - The plaque that Gerald and June Meyers will receive next month as Fulton County's big tree contest winners - the third such plaque for them to collect in four years - says as much about their knowledge and love of nature as it does the size of the trees growing on their 30 acres along Swan Creek.
The Fulton Soil and Water Conservation District plaques on their family room wall document that they owned the county's largest known Norway spruce tree in 2003 and the largest known black cherry tree in 2004.
In December, they're to receive a plaque at the district's annual banquet for the county's largest known locust tree.
Chances are, however, that none of their trees south of Swanton along County Road F are the largest of their type in the county, according to Tom Collins, the Ohio Division of Forestry service forester at Maumee State Forest in Swancreek Township.
What's gotten those trees into the record books are the Meyers themselves, who are former Christmas tree growers and aficionados of the conservation district's tiny contest for big trees.
"They've always been interested in trees and are pretty familiar with their property so they know what's there," Mr. Collins said of Mr. and Mrs. Meyers' win streak.
They enjoy simply sitting in their living room and watching the birds.
The hummingbirds' fights are "just heavenly," according to Mrs. Meyers.
The couple organize hayrides and take pride in their acreage where hunters often spot deer and wild turkey. On Friday, a hunter got a six-point buck that weighed about 200 pounds, Mr. Meyers said.
He's 84 and a retired mail carrier - he had a rural route in eastern Fulton County - and his wife, 77, is a retired floral designer who was employed in shops in Swanton and Maumee.
In their early retirement years, they planted 1,000 Christmas trees a year and over about two decades they sold almost all of them.
After winning the county's big tree contest two years in a row, they voluntarily sat out last year when the category was burr oak.
"We didn't want to be a pig," Mrs. Meyers said.
But this year they couldn't resist entering their locust, which at 103 feet tall is significantly taller than the largest known locust tree in the state. That tree in southeastern Ohio's Perry County is 79 feet tall. But it has a much larger trunk and wider crown than the Meyers' locust.
Theirs is 155 inches in circumference around the trunk, measured 4.5 feet from the ground. And the average diameter of the spread of the branches is 65 feet.
The Perry County tree in comparison is squatty, measuring 243 inches around the trunk and boasting a 264-feet crown.
The category for next year's contest in Fulton County hasn't been decided yet.
Mr. Collins is mulling sassafras. He tries to pick a tree that's easy for the public to identify. When the category was sugar maple in 1997, all of the entries in the contest - and it often draws only three or so - were for other types of maples.
He also looks for a tree that grows large locally. Although Fulton County has dozens of different trees, some tend to stay small by nature. And that's part of the reason for the contest.
Organizers hope that it helps motivate property owners to take more interest in their trees and perhaps remove some of what Mr. Collins considers "weed trees" such as ironwood, hawthorne, and blue beech.
"In the woods, they're basically taking up space that could be used by more valuable trees," he said.
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