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End of an era: Century-old tree, once backdrop for picnics, birthdays, weddings, being removed

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The end of an era at Freedom Park came with no fanfare. Still, a big part of its roots is no more.

Friday, the county removed an oak tree near the pond that’s believed to be 100 years old.

Nikki Tlthiel had fond memories of it.

“Especially… I used to have picnics with friends here— like underneath it. It was just a tree that I feel was a popular spot,” she says.

Tlthiel was blindsided as she walked by the site cordoned off with yellow tape, where workers first removed the limbs and branches.

“And I saw this, and I was like, aww,” she said. “It was just a tree that was so big. Like there was good shade, and it just looked the prettiest.”

“Well it was a very tall tree; it was very beautiful too,” Robin Reyes said.

“One question that I ask is, why did they say it is a big hazard?” the astute little boy asked.

“The tree has started to split and become a hazard to the public,” said Mecklenburg County communications specialist Rebecca Carter. “Removal began yesterday, and we are exploring options for replacement. At this time, we estimate the tree to be between 80-120 +/- years old and will better be able to determine the age as removal progresses.”

Mecklenburg Parks and Rec alerted the public via Twitter: 

That’s hard to swallow for those with memorable times alongside the oak of a lifetime.

Jeff Handler tweeted, “My wife and I got married under that tree.” 

His wife, Laura, shared treasured photos of the wedding and other significant times with the living landmark.

“Like many couples, we looked at several spots/venues for our wedding,” she told Queen City News. “As we walked around the park, the majesty of this massive oak seemed like the perfect backdrop.”

“Honestly, I think our appreciation for the tree has grown over time (partly due to Powers’ The Overstory),” she said in an email, referring to a fictional book about trees and people who defend them.

“Its longevity, shelter, growth, and splendor embody so many elements of a union and partnership we were initiating,” Handler says of the symbolism.

Along with the nostalgia, there was a sense of finality. 

The center of a century of picnics, birthday parties, and weddings was reduced to a stump by Friday afternoon.

“I always feel kind of sad when they are clearing out spaces that I’ve seen for a long time, and it makes a huge difference,” said Tlthiel.

Certainly, there are other trees at Freedom Park. But for so many, it was THE tree that will certainly be missed.

“We didn’t realize how much we’d appreciate being able to revisit this space year after year to celebrate our anniversary and mark our years and life together,” said Handler. “No doubt we’ll still come back, but the spirit of that seemingly omniscient, enduring oak will greatly be missed.” 





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