McPolin Farm willow is scheduled for a trim | ParkRecord.com

McPolin Farm willow is scheduled for a trim

One of the trees on McPolin Farm will get a little trim this week.

Crews will scale back the large willow near the bridge on the farm’s driveway just off of S.R. 224, said farm manager Denise Carey.

The tree, which is at least 90 years old, has grown to the point where the weight of the branches has become a safety hazard, Carey told The Park Record.

"Over the past year, two large growths coming up from the base have gotten so big that they are splitting open the trunk," Carey explained. "In fact, the opening has spread one inch at the base, and that’s a huge deal. The branches could cause the tree to fall apart at any moment."

In addition, one large branch hangs over the driveway, which blocks any vehicle from entering the farm.

"This branch hangs so low that a truck with any height can’t drive up the driveway to the barn," Carey said. "When we had the scarecrow festival last fall, the truck delivering the pumpkins couldn’t clear the branch. So, if the barn, farmhouse or other parts of the farm caught on fire, a fire truck would never make it past the tree and that’s our biggest concern."

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Carey said the four-hour project will stop the tree from splitting even more.

"We need to make it safe for everyone," she said.

The decision to cut back the willow has been in the works for the past 10 years, after crews used cables to prevent another tree from falling down near the farmhouse.

"Our parks department staff suggested we watch the tree by the bridge because when trees grow as big and as old as it is, they start to split apart, because they have so many big branches and bases coming out of it," Carey said.

Farm visitors have also caused the tree to crack.

"Over the past 10 years, the tree has been a hot spot for family photos and weddings," Carey said. "I can’t even get close to how many photo sessions and tourist photos are taken out there each year, but I know they number in the thousands.

Unfortunately, even though we have signs that say, ‘Keep off the trees,’ people will climb it.

"What they don’t understand is that these signs aren’t there to protect the people who may fall out of the tree, but the signs are there to protect the tree," she said. "When you think about whole families climbing this tree, you start to understand how the heaviness can be stressful on the branches. This causes a lot of damage."

Carey doesn’t know the exact age of the tree, but did talk with Betty McPolin, who grew up on the farm.

"She remembers the tree from when she lived on the farm," Carey said. "She turns 91 this year, so the tree has been around for a long time."

Carey understands that some people will get upset about the project because the tree is so old, but she also believes it will benefit the tree and the farm in the future.

"I talked with Betty’s daughter, Pat, the other day, and she said her mom is sad about having to cut the tree, but she understands," Carey said. "We won’t cut all of it. We’ll just cut back some of it, but it will make a huge difference in what the tree looks like.

"We do have to cut a lot of it in an attempt to keep it around for many more years," she said. "I hope people will respect our trees and not climb them when they get their pictures taken. That way we can keep the trees for as long as they live."

After the project is complete, the city will plant a new tree on the same side of the driveway.

"We plan to do that it after it cools down, because the heat is hard on the new trees," she said. "Then we’ll shift our focus and keep a close eye on the tree by the farmhouse.

"We know we eventually will have to cut that back," she said. "We don’t know if it will happen this year or if it can survive another winter."