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  • Last modified 89 days ago (May 25, 2017)

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Park oak topples onto Main St.

Couple narrowly avoids falling behemoth

News editor

A storm that battered Marion with torrential rain and strong winds was over Friday when Madison and Mark Vinduska returned from a trip to Newton about 8:30 p.m.

As they drove past Central Park and neared Marion Historical Museum, they ran into a sudden, blinding torrent of rain.

“It seemed like it was down-pouring again,” Madison Vinduska said.

However, the water dousing their car wasn’t coming from the clouds; it was rolling off the leaves of a massive oak tree in the park that was falling across Main St.

“My husband said, ‘Oh, a tree just fell down,’” Vinduska said. “It barely missed us.”

It wasn’t until they turned around that they discovered how lucky they were. The tree that once stood at the park driveway was lying across Main St. Power and cable lines were down, a section of sidewalk railing was obliterated, and branches and bark from an adjacent walnut tree had been stripped away.

“I didn’t know how big it was until we turned around,” Vinduska said. “It was in the Big Scoop parking lot. It would have crushed us. It’s surprising because you would think it would be loud. It was a little crash, but nothing crazy.”

With police and firefighters redirecting traffic, city workers armed with chain saws, a loader, backhoe, and utility and dump trucks started wrestling with the debris. They slowly cleared the street and sidewalk, but a section of the trunk stretching from the broken rotted roots to the railing wouldn’t budge.

“That tree is 43 inches in diameter,” city administrator Roger Holter said. “When they tried to lift it up with the loader it pulled the rear tires off the ground and popped one of the front tires off the rim. That’s why it didn’t come out Saturday.”

Closer inspection of the walnut tree revealed that the trunk was hollow all the way up to the first main branch, Holter said. Workers removed it Monday, along with the rest of the oak.

“We just couldn’t risk it,” Holter said. “It’s too close to the street, too close to people. In two weeks we’ll have 5,000 people in the park.”

Holter said the city would have an arborist evaluate the condition of the rest of the trees in the park. If additional trees are removed, new ones will be planted, he said.

“While it’s an emotional issue, it’s important to get a professional assessment,” he said. “Any forest has a useable lifespan, and this is evidence we may be coming up on that lifespan.”

Restoring the damaged historic park railing will present a unique challenge.

“The real fun will be to find 1900s plumbing pieces to repair the fence,” Holter said.

Last modified May 25, 2017

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