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Massive, 160-year-old oak must be cut at Madison UMC

MADISON – With much disappointment from the congregation, an iconic tree estimated at 160 years old must be cut down at Madison United Methodist Church at 127 Church St.

The tree, a Southern Red Oak, stands about 20 feet north of the sanctuary at the corner of Church and Arnett streets. Because the tree had shown signs of decline, the congregation asked arborists Stoney Gray, along with Lee McBride, to examine it.

“Stoney and Lee McBride tested our tree. We wanted the congregation to have the maximum information. The results were off the charts bad,” Ronnie Williams said. Williams has been a member of Madison UMC since he was 12 years old, and six generations of his family have been members at Madison Methodist.

“The tree has long been the branding symbol of MUMC and will be missed greatly,” Williams said. A stained-glass design depicts the tree in the sanctuary entrance.

Gray reported his findings to the congregation at a special church conference led by Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Travis Wilson on July 11. The tree “looks healthy to the uneducated eye but it is not,” Gray said.

Gray estimates the tree’s weight to range from 30,000 to 40,000 pounds. The tree is 160 years old and stood at the site before the Madison UMC congregation moved its church building to the downtown site when men rolled the building on logs from the current-day approximate location of Hughes Road and Old Madison Pike.

The arborists’ examination determined that for 20 feet below the ground line and 40 feet above the ground was void of sound wood, except for an average of 4 inches around the circumference. The tree measures 60 inches in diameter and approximately 107 feet tall.

“We drilled five holes in the trunk and holes in the roots and found a cavity inside the tree. The tree has decay pockets, probably caused from the loss of a limb,” Gray said.

Quotes to cut down the tree have ranged drastically from $6,800 to $30,000. The removal procedure will require about three days with use of a crane. The church will ask Madison Police Department to close streets to ensure safety. Huntsville Utilities must reroute power lines.

“The City of Madison has been a great help,” Williams said.

Church members are discussing plans to plant a new tree. “We also started a campaign to cover the expenses of the tree removal,” Williams said. Anyone who wants to help cover expenses for removal and replacement of the tree can mail checks to Madison United Methodist Church, 127 Church Street, Madison, AL 35758.

For more information, call 256-772-9761, email office@madisonum.org or visit madisonum.org.

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