By Roger McKinney
NEOSHO, Mo. —
A Norway spruce tree that has been a central feature of Christmas programs in Big Spring Park for years will have one more holiday season before it comes down.
The 40-foot tree is a victim of two years of drought, or maybe disease, said Jon Skinner, urban forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The tree’s condition was a topic at Tuesday night’s Neosho City Council meeting, at which John Jordon, parks director, reported to the council.
Skinner said by phone Wednesday that the tissue in more than half the tree is dead.
“There are no live needles or buds” on at least half the tree, Skinner said. “That portion of the tree is never going to green up again. That side is going to stay brown and dead.”
Skinner said he hadn’t estimated the age of the tree.
“We realize it’s a huge loss for the community,” Skinner said. He said he hopes the city’s plan for a final Christmas for the tree will help soften the blow.
City Manager Troy Royer said that during the annual lighting ceremony in Big Spring Park, the person chosen as Citizen of the Year is given the honor of flipping the switch on the lights for the evergreen.
The program usually includes music from school groups and remarks by city officials
Royer and Jordon said the city has decided to light and decorate the tree for a final Christmas, and to remove it sometime after the holiday.
“We feel like that’s probably the best course of action,” Jordon said by phone Wednesday. “It will give people one last chance to enjoy and remember the tree.”
Jordon said he became concerned when he noticed the tree getting brown in the driest part of the summer.
“This is a tree that has a history,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the tree has died. People have a sentimental attachment to it. It’s something we can re-establish. We plan on replanting another tree to continue the tradition.”
JOHN JORDON, 37, Neosho parks director, said the tree has been around for as long as he can remember, and so has the Christmas lighting ceremony.