McMinnville Heritage Preservation is asking city officials to pay an outstanding bill for the care of the Birthing Tree from 2009, as well as set a policy when it comes to the tree’s care.
According to McMinnville Heritage Preservation president Dr. Neil Schultz, the organization borrowed $7,900 to repair damage to the tree four years ago when limbs broke, as well as stabilize other limbs in an attempt to prevent further damage.
“As of July 2013, our corporation has received $2,547 in community donations leaving $5,352 still owed on the bank loan,” Schultz said. “This does not include the loan interest. The bank loan, plus interest, remains at $6,153.”
The request was made before city Building and Grounds Committee members Aldermen Ben Newman, chairman, Rick Barnes and Ken Smith.
“In 2009, members of our city government said it could be beneficial to ask the city to contribute to the restoration at a later time. This is a later time,” said Schultz.
In 2009, Tennessee Tech University arborist Dr. Douglas Airhart examined the tree. He recommended Cortese Tree Specialist general manager Sam Adams, a company out of Knoxville, to prune the tree, add cables to stabilize its limbs, and place a lightning protection system.
Both Airhart and Adams attended last week’s committee meeting.
“The branch that failed recently had not been cabled,” said Airhart. “Part of the problem with the tree is that it is broader than it is tall. You need structural integrity up high in order to drop a support cable. There is only one central leader. You can’t put 15 cables on the central leader because it would fail.”
A recent inspection of the tree found only five to six dead branches since it was pruned in 2009.
“That’s a phenomenal low number of dead branches,” said Airhart. “It implies the tree is in excellent health and worthy of your attention.”
Adams agrees. “I looked at the tree today. The tree is in incredible health. We are getting very good growth increments on the twig elongation. The only thing is to repair the damage. Pruning would include rigging that branch so no more further damage would be done to the trunk and the structural roots in the surface of the soil.”
Also, the company would inspect the rest of the tree and the lightning protection system. Pruning would be done, where needed, and any damage repaired to the current cables or lightning protection system. The cost is estimated at $1,900.
McMinnville Heritage Preservation also asked officials to adopt a policy concerning future upkeep of the tree. Adams says the tree is worth the effort.
“The Birthing Tree is one of the top unique trees in the state of Tennessee as far as its history, age and size,” Adams said. “It’s a historical asset, it’s a cultural asset and it’s an extremely valuable asset to the city. It’s a one of a kind for the state of Tennessee and the city of McMinnville.”
Trunk Formula Method was done on the tree to determine its dollar value. At $12.93 cents per square inch and the tree estimated to have over 56,000 square inches, the market value is over $72,000.
“I think the Birthing Tree is an asset to our community,” said Newman. “I think we need time to think about what it means to our city. We need time to talk to some people in the community and revisit this at a later date.”
The broken limb appears to be stable and should be OK if officials want to hold off on the measure a couple of weeks, says Adams.