Kickapoo Creek Park: The big 'Hollow Tree' gets life saving trim

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[September 08, 2018]   LINCOLN - There's a well-known tree in Kickapoo Creek Park, 'Hollow Tree.' It is a large American Sycamore positioned halfway around the park just off the main road where it curves to follow the creek.

Typical of a Sycamore's growth habit, this tree's HOLLOW is located at it's base. Children enchanted by the darkened, cozy chamber are seduced to enter and stand inside it, and to test its echo factor.

Estimated to be 100 to 125 years old, the tree's lumbering size and wizened limbs naturally lead many to marvel at its greatness, and some to further speculate what spirits it might host. It is the kind of tree that can spur such thoughts.

A mother recently showed Park Superintendent Joe Funk a photo of her two children in the tree and what could be interpreted as a ghost between them. They believed it so.

The tree is positioned in a space between the roadway and creek. It serves as a greeter to a rustic nature trail along the creek, or to even more secluded trails for those who would cross over the suspension bridge.

It is a tree of great prominence in the park.

As happens with big old trees, it came time this year to make a decision on how to manage the aging tree to keep park visitors safe.

Tree experts from Randy's Tree Service in Atlanta were consulted and it was thought the tree could be saved for some years to come if pruned back substantially.

Early one August morning, Randy's brought out a crew to do the tree work and they were joined by park staff in the cleanup.

Funk said that the plan was to leave a few leader branches with leaves with the hope that the strategic cuts will heal over and the tree will send out new branches next year that will form a cap keeping the tree alive. Funk says that even if the tree does not survive, he plans for the trunk portion with it's hollow to remain.

Park 'shutter bug' Beverly Buhrmester has been observing and photo documenting life at the park for decades. She enjoys the peacefulness, the seasonal changes and all daily beauty found in the park.
Buhrmester says, "It would be impossible to determine the number of pictures taken at that location, hundreds if not thousands. From little ones having their pictures taken within the hollow entrance to wedding, birthday, prom and keepsake photos in front of the tree during all seasons and especially fall.

So of course, Buhrmester was on hand to photo journal Hollow Tree's trim.

"Randy's Tree Service did an awesome job of trimming the tree with the intention of saving the hollow entrance and the bear living quarters (yes, if you look in the right place, there are bears).

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They also hoped saving as much of the tree as possible might give a good chance for a re-growth of new limbs and flourishing in the years to come," she said.

Buhrmester explained how the work was performed strategically, "They worked from side to side to keep the weight distributed as equal as possible to keep the tree from splitting or causing any danger to the workers.

It was quite interesting to see the procedure of using a rope and pulley technique. The large limbs were roped and tied and when they fell, they were lowered to the ground by the rope and pulley.

And she adds big compliments, "The cleanup crew worked tirelessly from the time the first limb came down.

"There wasn't a leaf or limb left in sight by the time they left. The only evidence they were on site was what was left of the once beautiful iconic sycamore tree that now stood naked in the sunlight."

[Jan Youngquist with photos by Youngquist and Bev Buhrmester]

Learn more about the American Sycamore 'Platanus occidentalis' wiki/Platanus_occidentalis


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