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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2005

Wauseon: Disease fells old elm

BY KARAMAGI RUJUMBA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rick Frey, public works foreman, from left, Curt Smith, parks department foreman, Ivan Hite, councilman and city tree commission member, and Lorraine Frey, whose home is in front of the elm, measure the circumference at 14 feet, 6 1/2 inches. Rick Frey, public works foreman, from left, Curt Smith, parks department foreman, Ivan Hite, councilman and city tree commission member, and Lorraine Frey, whose home is in front of the elm, measure the circumference at 14 feet, 6 1/2 inches.
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WAUSEON-For many years, the giant elm tree on the corner of Oak and Franklin streets has haughtily towered over the many other trees that line this serene suburban neighborhood.

Estimated to be more than 110 years old, the tree was cut down last week because it was infected with the debilitating Dutch elm disease for more than four years, said Rick Frey, the city's public works foreman who is responsible for trees.

Last week, he was joined by members of the Wauseon Tree Commission on a cool spring morning to reflect on the death of a community landmark ruined by the notorious tree fungus.

"I grew up with this tree," said Neva Warncke, a member of the city's tree commission. "I have seen it since I was 4 years old."

Standing at more than 80 feet tall with a 14-foot base, the tree once cast a 100-foot canopy, said Mr. Frey.

In recent years, the tree only cast a shadow of what it once looked like, commission members said.

Councilman Ivan Hite said the city is considering a number of options of what will be done with the wood that is collected from the tree and how it will be stored.

He noted that the city plans to preserve 8 feet of the elm tree's trunk and is considering a proposal to brand several chunks of wood that people can keep to remind them of the tree's history and importance. A wood carving contest is also among the plans being discussed.

"Initially we thought the tree had survived the Dutch elm," Mr. Hite said. "But it will never die," he added, noting that area residents will be able to keep pieces of the tree as memorabilia.

For Lorraine Frey, who has lived in the house at the corner of Oak and Franklin streets and is no relation to Rick Frey, the loss of the tree will mean less yard work for her.

"I feel bad because it's so old, but I could never mow my lawn without picking a bushel of sticks," she said.

Mrs. Frey, who has lived in the same house since the 1950s, said the tree was a part of her family's history and recalled that her late husband and neighbor often enjoyed working together to trim branches off of the enormous tree. She added that she especially enjoyed the tree's enormous shade, which often covered most of her house.

"This tree reminds us of how great the elm trees are," said Jim Spiess, a member of the city's tree commission.

Members of the commission said the city plans to re-plant two trees in the city to replace the felled one as required by Ohio Tree City USA.

"It almost feels like losing a family member," said Curt Smith, a city parks department foreman.

Contact Karamagi Rujumba at:

krujumba@theblade.com or

419-724-6064



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