Senior Center: the tree stays

140-year-old heritage tree will not be cut down for new parking lot project

By Ben Olson

Reader Staff

The fate of the 140-year-old ponderosa pine in the Sandpoint Senior Center parking lot has been sealed: it will stay.

After some number crunching and numerous redesigns of the parking lot plan, board member Stephen Drinkard at Sandpoint Area Seniors, Inc. (SASi) has announced the tree will continue to occupy its current position.

"Granny at the Tree" by Gail Lyster.

“Granny at the Tree” by Gail Lyster.

“Through the immense help of [arborist] Bill Freidmann,” said Drinkard, “we determined the tree has about twenty-five to thirty years of life left in it, and with careful pruning, we can ease the tree through the construction process.”

Drinkard and Freidmann recently dug up a portion of the tree’s roots and found that they were not as close to the surface of asphalt as originally thought.

The redesigned plans account for a 3,000 sq. ft. section of area around the ponderosa to be covered with permeable pavers that would allow the roots to breathe and not press up in search for oxygen. The remaining 12,000 sq. ft. will be covered with asphalt.

Following the announcement of the SASi parking lot project last month, a number of community members voiced their concerns that the tree should stay, including artist and Sandpoint Tree Committee member Gail Lyster.

“We still need to raise seven to ten thousand dollars,” said Ellen Weissman, executive director for SASi. “Since it was mainly from Gail’s urging us to save the tree, she and [fellow artists] came up with this idea of painting the tree and donating the paintings back to the center.”

The paintings will be auctioned off at a ribbon cutting in the fall, with the money going directly to the project.

Saving the tree has truly been a community effort, with people chipping in from all over town.

“Surveyor Lance Miller read the article in the Reader and got inspired,” said Drinkard. “He came over and did a complete survey of the whole property there for free.”

In addition to Miller’s contribution, over $1,000 has so far been raised by various community members, including a generous contribution by Eileen and Larry Atkinson for $500.

“Now we just need a civil engineer to step up and donate his or her time,” said Drinkard.

“I’m personally glad the tree is staying,” said Weissman. “I understand the pros and cons, and I’ve tried to be real neutral with it, but it’s been a challenging experience. In this case, this elder tree is a heritage tree. It’s old, and the people that we serve are older people, so it sort of fits to keep it.””

“This whole project has made me so much more aware of the trees we have in this community,” said Weissman

According to Drinkard, the experience has also taught him a few things.smaller DSCN1198

“What’s good about this is … I’ve talked with the tree committee about revisiting the idea of establishing heritage tree policies with the city,” he said. “And also, what we’re going to do here is talk to the museum and historians like Nancy Renk, to see what they can tell us about this area on Main Street where the tree sits, and possibly do a plaque, a historical marker, so people can come by and see how the tree is a sentinel of history.”

Though the plans are calling for the tree to remain in place, SASi still needs to raise money to pay for the additional costs to keep it. If you are interested in donating toward the fund, please call 208-263-6860.

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  1. Chris Bessler says:


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