CLEARWATER — A giant, decaying old oak tree recently was removed from a municipal park by the city’s Urban Forestry division because of its potential to hurt people and damage property.
The laurel oak at Crest Lake Park off Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard was once 60 feet tall and estimated to be about 80 years old. It had a huge cavity in the trunk, and many of its largest limbs were decayed.
Forestry department supervisor Chuck Porterhouse said a team of five certified arborists worked for more than a day and a half to remove the tree. He estimated its total weight at around 60,000 pounds; the trunk alone weighed 18,000 pounds.
“When you have a tree of that size in the condition it was in, it could come down at any time, so we had to remove it,” Porterhouse explained.
Although the Crest Lake Park tree was a bit larger than most, it was just was one of many the department is tasked with removing on a regular basis.
“We have a tree inventory, a list of trees we monitor, and we’ve recently removed about 100 trees that were determined to be high risks,” Porterhouse said.
“We take a lot of factors into consideration before removing these trees: their age, condition, how much decay there is, where the tree is located. We don’t want a tree of this size coming down on a tennis court.”
Porterhouse admitted removing trees isn’t a particularly satisfying aspect of his job, but he said it’s a necessary part of living in the city.
“Clearwater is a big city, and the trees are getting older, just like the people,” he said. “Some are in good shape, and some are not.
“A lot of trees in Clearwater neighborhoods are coming of age at the same time. Hopefully, we get to the point where we are planting more trees than we are removing.”