Lakeland to spend $3,500 on 4th study of historic tree

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, February 01, 2018, 9:20 PM EST

The City of Lakeland is getting ready to spend $3,500 on a fourth study of the “Lover’s Oak” tree in the city’s historic Lake Morton neighborhood.

Parks and Recreation Director Bob Donahay said the city is procuring the contract with Joseph Samnik of Samnik & Ballard, Expert Tree Consultants. He said Samnik helped start the arborist program in Florida, and is also an attorney.

“They’re going to bring two climbers. They’re going to climb the tree to assess the tree. They’re going to bring a drone, which has a 35 mm camera to take pictures above the tree,” said Bob Donahay.

Donahay said Samnik’s crew will also take x-rays of the trees insides.

“It really hurts us to be … to have to stand here and do these studies and figure out what we’re going to do and ultimately if the decision is made to cut it down, it’s not something we want to do,” Donahay said.

The city already spent $1,100 on a previous study and three arborists have examined it and said the tree must come down because it has defects, according to Donahay.

The debate started when one of the tree’s limbs fell on a car.

The city had planned to cut the tree down in September. When people living and working nearby got wind of it, they fought back.

Realtor Natalie Oldenkamp was one of them.

“I’m really glad they’re hiring another arborist … it really makes me excited and I’m hoping for the best,” said Oldenkamp.

She and a friend went to Donahay and the city manager, begging them not to cut down the tree.

“This tree is so old and so beautiful and it has so much personality. People get married under that tree,” Oldenkamp said.

Others in the neighborhood said it’s where they take family photos. Donahay said Oldenkamp wasn’t the only person to come to him about the tree.

“We had a citizen come forth and wanting to buy an insurance policy,” Donahay recalled.

He said he turned down that offer. He’s scheduling the fourth study for sometime in February. Then, commissioners will review the results and make the decision on whether to cut the tree down.

Oldenkamp said if the results don’t come back in her favor, she and others will back away and not make a fuss about it.