Elected officials, Minden Main Street board members and the general public gathered together around the old ash tree in downtown Minden for a ribbon cutting Saturday.
A wrought iron fence was erected around the 101-year-old tree to preserve it, said Main Street Board President Terry Gardner.
“The tree was planted in 1915 on the south side of the courthouse,” he said. “When they tore down the courthouse, the tree almost got pushed over but citizens banned together to preserve the tree.”
Gardner, the owner of a landscaping service, explained that with all the people that walk under the tree on top of the roots, it packs the ground and does not give the tree room to breathe. Some of the roots run along the top of the ground.
“To preserve the integrity of the tree, we decided to put up a fence to help keep people off of it,” he said.
The fence has a gate in which a plaque will be posted with a short history of the tree and the names of the current Main Street Board members, Gardner said.
Board members include Gardner, Larry Gipson, vice president, Thomas Adams, secretary treasurer, Alicia Watson, Kathy Copeland, Deborah Cooksey and Betsy Mathews. Becky White is the Main Street Board’s director.
The City of Minden will maintain the health of the tree as well as the grounds around it.
Mayor Tommy Davis took a personal interest in the tree when he took the city’s helm and has been working with an arborist to treat the tree.
“That tree is an icon downtown for sure,” he said. “It had been somewhat neglected over the last few years, and a couple of years ago, we had it pruned. The arborist who did the pruning said the tree was a healthy tree, so we want to keep it healthy.”
Davis says the tree has been vaccinated with an ash borer vaccine to prevent the pesky beetles from harming it.
“The arborist said what was harmful to the tree is everybody walking on the roots,” he said. “That’s the purpose of the fence. Looking at it, it’s a healthy tree, but the tree looks better than it has in a long time since it’s been trimmed.”
He says they’ve also done some deep fertilizer injections to help preserve the health of the tree.
“We want to keep it healthy for some time to come,” Davis said. “If you look around town, there are many old trees that are disappearing, and I think we need to begin a replacement plan for those.”
Schelley Frances, curator of the Dorcheat Historical Museum says Charles Davis, a deputy with the sheriff’s office then, had an office in the southwest corner of the 1905 courthouse and wanted relief from the afternoon sun that came through the building’s windows.
“He asked a farmer friend to bring a fast-growing shade tree to plant just outside his office,” she said. “The ash and a companion tree, a huge cedar that stood near the old Peoples Bank building and where the flagpole is today, were saved by popular demand when the area was made into a parking lot after the courthouse and city hall building was demolished in June 1971.”
In 1974, the tree escaped razing to make room for a parking lot. The cedar tree did not; already damaged, a wind gust in October 1979 toppled it.
The fence was constructed and installed by Perryman Welding. The funds to pay for the fence comes from money raised at June’s inaugural Grilling on Main.