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Historic oak tree at Fair Street School coming down today

POSTED: November 23, 2013 12:01 a.m.

A piece of Gainesville and Fair Street School history, the towering oak tree in front of the school, is being cut down today.

“There are different ages given to it, some saying it’s close to 500 years old,” said Adrian Niles, maintenance director for Gainesville City Schools. “We estimate it’s around 250 years old.”

An oak tree between the ages of 250 and 500 years old is at the end of its lifespan. The tree, which Niles said is dead, has become a safety concern for the elementary school students.

“It’s a very large tree with large limbs,” Niles said. “Again, we don’t want the safety hazard ... there’s kids around. There are pedestrians who walk the sidewalks up there. Our kids play in the yard and underneath the tree.”

Arborist Odis Sisk of Global Tree Preservation said oak trees generally have a lifespan of 200 to 500 years, depending on the species.

“It doesn’t take very much for any type of disturbance in an old tree’s environment for the tree to go into decline and eventually die,” Sisk explained. “They’re very sensitive.”

Beginning 8 a.m., Morrison Tree Service will begin to bring the tree down. Niles said the majority of the work will be done today between 8-9 a.m.; it will then take a few days to cut the tree apart and remove it from the property.

The total cost of the project is $1,250.

Having survived the 1936 Gainesville tornado, the tree continued to stand when Fair Street originally opened as an all-black school for students from first through 12th grade.

Gainesville City Schools were integrated in the 1969-70 school year, and Fair Street then housed middle school students. In the 1980s, it housed grades three, four and five at various points.

Since 2003, the school has been home to kindergarten through fifth-grade students; the former building was torn down in 2012. The newly-built Fair Street opened Oct. 16.

While the chapter on this tree closes, another chapter is just beginning. Niles said they are searching for a new white oak tree to plant in the same place. A plaque will also be placed where the tree stood for so many years.

“The tree has shaded generations of children and families in the Fair Street community and (has) been a part of school celebrations and events for over 70 years,” said Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer. “As its time has come to an end at the same time the new building begins, the school and alumni will plant a new tree that will see the next hundred years or more of children and community celebrations.”

Additionally, wood will be harvested from the tree to build two benches which will be installed inside the school.
“It is a special part of many memories,” Dyer said.


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