Some Hawkins County leaders want this Norway Spruce removed from the courthouse lawn because it blocks the view of the newly renovated 177-year-old courthouse. (photo by Jeff Bobo)
ROGERSVILLE — A Norway spruce which some Hawkins County leaders want removed from the courthouse lawn, received a temporary reprieve Monday from the Rogersville Tree Board, although it isn’t out of the woods yet.
On Monday the Tree board voted 4-1 to reject a formal request from the Hawkins County Commission’s Buildings Committee seeking permission to remove the spruce, and leave that area of the courthouse lawn open.
The request, which was made by County Mayor Melville Bailey on behalf of the committee, does offer to cover the cost of the tree removal and plant another tree elsewhere in the city.
Some county commissioners have said they believe the spruce, which was planted in the mid-1990s for Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, blocks the view of the historic courthouse which underwent a $2 million renovation that was completed earlier this year.
Tree Board members said Monday they might approve removal of the courthouse spruce if the Buildings Committee submits a plan in its request to replace the spruce with another tree in the same area of the courthouse lawn.
Board member Patricia Humbert offered the only vote against rejecting the county’s request. She said the spruce was an “unfortunate” choice for the courthouse lawn.
“It’s not just about the view, but it takes up a great deal of the available space,” Humbert added. “And because we do so many community activities on that Town Square it would be nice to leave a little more space out there.”
Board chairperson Jill Burdette, as well as board members Lou Ann Begley and Marilyn Herndon expressed support for keeping the spruce.
Board member Barbara Combs noted, however, that assuming it is a genuine Norway Spruce as has been reported, the tree will get much bigger.
“The tree will grow to be 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide, so my husband and I went down to the town square and we measured the section where the tree is planted,” Combs said. “From sidewalk to sidewalk it’s 43.5 feet, and from the (veteran’s memorial) monument back to the courthouse (porch) — and there are some plantings and shrubs that would also be covered up — and that’s 50 feet. At maturity it’s going to cover up that entire yard.”
Combs added, “I’m just speaking for myself, but we are not opposed to cutting the tree. But, we would expect a replacement tree in the same spot, or in that same quadrant of the courthouse lawn. They will have to make a change in their application that explains what they plan to replace it with.”
Burdette wanted to make sure it was clear that the Tree Board’s vote was to reject the proposal as written, and not a permanent rejection of the idea of removing the spruce.
But, the group agreed that if the Buildings Committee submits a new request, the type and location of the replacement tree should be well thought out in keeping with the history of the courthouse.
“In all the pictures and historic photographs there’s always a tree there,” Begley said. “A large canopy tree. (The courthouse) is beautifully redone, and sometimes that tree can block the view, but if you move over a few feet on either side you can still see it.”