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A farewell to limbs

Disease, decay combine to sound the death knellfor Jacksonville maples

After standing tall for more than a century, a handful of Southern Oregon's giants fell to the earth Thursday afternoon.

Recent findings from a local arborist revealed that six maple trees flanking the Jacksonville Museum were either dead or dying. Officials from the Southern Oregon Historical Society agreed to have the trees chopped down before somebody was injured or a building was damaged.

This is not something we wanted to do, said John Enders, executive director for the Southern Oregon Historical Society. These are big, beautiful, century-old trees.

Crews from Central Point-based Beaver Tree Service began the project Thursday morning, and employees anticipated the work would wrap-up sometime today.

Enders said it will cost more than &

36;7,000 to cut down the six trees, remove the stumps and plant replacement trees ' big leaf maples and red alders.

Although the museum and its trees are on Jackson County property, SOHS maintains the land and is responsible for its upkeep. The two are in the midst of a legal dispute over budgets.

That's kind of the irony of the whole situation, said Enders. We're expected to pay, yet our budget keeps getting cut.

Enders said the dead or dying trees ' five big leaf maples and one Norway maple ' died as the result of poor care received in the 1920s.

They were topped (removing the top) to discourage growth, a practice that allowed disease to develop in the root system and trunk. Plugging holes with cement also caused the trees to rot.

Jacksonville Museum operating manager Mary Fyre said in February that yellow tape was placed around the trees to keep residents from getting hurt.

Sure we love the trees, but the last windstorm decided it, said Fyre, who's office window offers a view of the dying maples. It wasn't an easy decision.

It's unclear just how old the trees are. SOHS museum assistant Betty Smith estimates they were planted in 1883 ' the year the Jacksonville Museum was built.

Enders said wood from the dead trees will be given to the Jackson County Field Committee, an agency that will then distribute firewood to local families in need.

Although locals says they are sad to see the trees go, many noted on Thursday that the historical society made the right decision.

Renee Legal works at the Mustard Seed Cafe, a coffee shop across the street.

The poor things are dying, said Legal, who added that she's pleased replacement trees will be planted. It's going to take some of the nostalgia away from the place.

I've spent many an hour sitting under those trees. It's kind of sad, said Scott Green, a lifelong Jacksonville resident. But they have to remove them. They're going to start falling on people.

It is sad, agreed Brian Waldeyer, who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 50 years. You just can't wait until they are starting to die. This is a public place. Somebody could get hurt.

Joe Brophy of Beaver Tree Service prepares to cut more limbs from a large maple tree in front of the Jacksonville Museum on Thursday. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven