DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s the gateway to Highland Park, a sentimental symbol with literal roots dating back to the Civil War. Generations of residents have watched the Big Pecan Tree’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony since 1927.
“It’s extremely special. It is extremely important to our community,” says Highland Park resident and landscape designer Melissa Gerstle, of Melissa Gerstle Design. “It’s a gathering place for our town during the holiday season with the lighting ceremony.”
But the “Million Dollar Monarch” is showing its age.
“This tree has gone into a pretty severe decline. It’s gone far enough that it can’t be pulled out of it,” says Certified Arborist Hannah Edinburgh with Tree Surgeons.
Edinburgh says, at more than 150 years old, that’s not surprising, even with the town’s doting attention.
“It’s already been cabled. It’s already got lightning protection. It’s being fertilized and inspected every year by an arborist,” she says.
But Edinburgh says there’s root decay and dead branches, which could pose a safety risk to passersby.
“Statistically, the risk of it hitting something, even on a street like this, is pretty small, but it’s there,” she says. “The issue is, if it happens, it could be catastrophic.”
Both she and Gerstle say the loss of the tree would be heartbreaking – and they don’t envy the decision the town will have to make.
“It’s very difficult to fix an old tree like this that’s over 150 years old, but it’s so worth it to try, and I hope that they will,” says Gerstle.
“People grew up watching this tree, driving around it, watching it get lit at Christmas. That’s a huge deal to this area,” says Edinburgh. “For some people, it’s like watching a part of their childhood and their life in Dallas die with the tree. But it can be so hard to decide when to let go of something like that.”
Town spokesperson Lt. Lance Koppa said in a statement, “The Town’s Parks Department has been working with an independent, certified arborist to evaluate the overall health of The Big Pecan Tree. While The Big Pecan Tree has proven to be extraordinarily resilient, age appears to be a contributing factor to its current decline. Further assessment will provide us a better picture of the degree of decline, and the options available to us to preserve the Town’s historic landmark.”
No word yet on when Town Council will make a decision.