The taking of this live oak that stood in front of the Kingstree Middle School on Martin Luther King Boulevard has sparked outrage among the community and raised questions as to why it could not have been saved. Photo by Michaele Duke
"Shame! It took God 150 years or so to make this tree (very healthy) and your school district a few hours and much $$$ to destroy it for no good reason". The remark was that of Billy Jenkinson who posted it on his Facebook page after seeing the remnants of an oak tree that stood in front of Kingstree Middle School.
Jenkinson went on to say the school district gets another fat "F" for the decision. "Ever heard of having a lot around a tree? This is done in progressive town and cities and for that matter, schools.... Our School District gets another "F" in my opinion. Our students and citizens deserve better than this." Jenkinson's comments would be followed by a flurry of angry posters who couldn't fathom why the tree was cut down.
On October 5, The News contacted the Williamsburg County School District Superintendent's office requesting an interview. On October 15, Boykin Parson, safety officer for the Williamsburg County School District responded. According to Parson, half of the tree fell that on its own was a result of rot. "The tree was rotted," said Parson. He said they had no idea how extensive the damage was because they couldn't see inside the tree. Boykin said after the section fell, they considered the condition of the rest of the tree before contacting a tree service. "We also noticed the remainder of the tree would perhaps fall at any time because it split due to its own weight and rotted condition," said Boykin. A tree service examined the tree and provided a written proposal for its removal.
However, Frances McClary disagrees. "There are ways to save these live oaks," said McClary, who is a forester and a commissioner with the Soil and Water Conservation District. "A live oak can live thousands of years, even when they are severely damaged. McClary cited an example of a live oak in Millwood that was split in half after an ice storm but continues to flourish. "The owner cut the bad part out and it is just beautiful."
In a telephone interview, Jenkinson reiterated McClary's position, giving several examples of live oaks that were damaged but recovered. "It’s just part of nature's pruning process," said Jenkinson who visited the Middle School oak. "They don't realize they're taking property value - a tree adds property value, not takes it away."
McClary added that a professional should have been contacted before a tree service. "They should have consulted with a forestry professional, not somebody that takes trees down for a living," said McClary. She added that the forestry commission offers a free service and such an important decision should not have been made without such a consult. "That tree provided a home for wildlife, shade, softened the rain, and...Just beauty."
McClary said instances such as this are the perfect reason the town should have an ordinance. "We need one that covers public property," said McClary. "What if you go into town tomorrow and they cut down all the trees down Main Street."
Her wish may be granted. During Kingstree Town Council's October 15, meeting Councilmember Bubba Hammet voiced his concern for the life of remaining specimens. "Oak trees are part of the beauty of this town and of this county and just keep that in mind and try to think about it before you go hacking down these beautiful oaks trees that are on the side of the road." His comments were followed by councilmember Andre Kelly suggesting they consider a tree ordinance.
Whether or not the tree at the Middle School could have been saved will continue to be debated, but according to Parson, good judgment was used and the only way it could have been saved would have been through Devine Intervention. "The tree had fallen. That's a natural occurrence," said Parson. "God is the only one who could have repaired that tree."