The Cleveland Shade Tree Board had held a contest to find the largest tree in Cleveland and promote the importance of giving trees the chance to grow. The winner was to be the location of the Arbor Day event where the city would also celebrate Cleveland being named a “Tree Trifecta” city.
State Rep. Kevin Brooks came up with the term for a city earning the three tree-related titles of “Tree City USA,” “Tree Line USA” and “Tree Campus USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation. The foundation recognized the city of Cleveland, Cleveland Utilities and Cleveland State Community College respectively with those honors.
The winning tree stood at 3635 North Ocoee St., near the intersection of North Ocoee Street, Blythe Ferry Road and Ocoee Crossing, and in the front yard of City Councilman Dale Hughes. The largest tree out of 21 entries in the Shade Tree Board’s “Big Old Tree” contest was a 130-foot-tall red oak with a branch spread of 108 feet and a trunk circumference of about 19 feet.
Urban Forester Dan Hartman said he believed it had been planted in 1813, making it 200 years old.
Shade tree board chair Janice Cheek said she was glad the tree just so happened to be along a street that gets a lot of traffic.
“I was so excited because it was a tree I’ve passed most every day,” Cheek said as she raised her voice to drown out the cars and motorcycles on the road behind her.
The board plans to place a banner in front of the tree so passersby can see the tree named the city’s largest.
As the owner of the property on which the “Big Old Tree” was located, City Councilman Dale Hughes accepted a plaque and a $500 prize from Cheek and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.
Hughes said he was planning to donate $250 of the prize to the Shade Tree Board and $250 to Great Strides, an initiative of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to raise money for research about the disease.
The day before the event, John Thomason of ABC Tree Service said a crew from the company had removed broken limbs from the tree “as a service in advance of the ceremony.”
Attendees of the Arbor Day event, including Cleveland City government officials, the Bradley County mayor, members of the Shade Tree Board and members of the general public, then turned their attention to the “Tree Trifecta” announcement.
Hartman said that, to his knowledge, Cleveland was one of only 16 cities to have met the requirements to be able to say they have “Tree Trifectas.”
“That’s something we should be very proud of,” Hartman said.
Cleveland was awarded a new flag for this year’s “Tree City USA” title, which Rowland said will fly near the courthouse downtown.
The city of Cleveland holds an Arbor Day celebration each year, which is one of the requirements necessary to be named a “Tree City USA.”
Cheek said the shade tree board hopes to continue the “Big Old Tree” contest each year and that the locations for future Arbor Day celebrations will depend on future contest winners.