By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw
WARSAW — As Gita Kamdar and a guest stood on the side of Colfax Street next to the giant Sycamore under Saturday’s sunny skies, a series of motorists slowed and asked about the tree’s much ballyhooed future.
After three weeks of public concern and discourse, was the tree — believed to be three centuries old — no longer endangered?
One woman even slowed her vehicle down and added that she’s been paying for the tree every day.
The answer is — almost assuredly — yes it is safe.
But despite multiple assurances from the mayor and the city planner and the city engineer, Kamdar said she’s still waiting to learn that the Indiana Department of Transportation, which holds the final decision on a $3.2 million sidewalk project that stands in the way of the historic and beloved tree, had been approved
She still doesn’t want to presume anything.
“Until it’s 100 percent (that) we have a plan and it’s done, than I’ll feel 100 percent confident about it,” Kamdar said.
Kamdar has every reason to feel confident after hearing of the overwhelming support from the city and even the contractor.
One such assurance was echoed Friday during a lunch date arranged by local columnist Shari Benyousky that included Kamdar, city planner Justin Taylor and Don Zolman, whose father built the house at the corner of Colfax and Sheridan where Kamdar now lives.
Zolman reminisced about climbing the tree as a youth decades ago while Taylor sketched a drawing of how the sidewalk would be rerouted along the west side of Colfax.
Based on the map provided by Benyousky, it appears a sidewalk would be constructed along Kamdar’s side yard that would that would turn to the west just south of the tree (instead of extending north to the intersection).
Kamdar credits the community for stepping up, and it now appears efforts to preserve the 300-year-old tree could be resolved in just three weeks.
“Worth every day,” Kamdar said.
Support for the tree has continued to grow even after Kamdar held a rally one week ago that attracted dozens of people, including a retired judge who lives nearby and a retired teacher, Gene Butts, who used the tree as an educational tool for his students as far back as the 1960s.
A QR Code was added recently on the “Save the Sycamore” sign at the base of the tree. The code takes supporters to an online petition, which has grown to 907, including nearly 300 more since the rally was held, Kamdar said.
If all goes well, after all is said and done and the tree’s roots have a chance to continue to sink themselves into the nearby earth for a few more centuries, Kamdar said she hopes to remove the white ribbon and that a plaque can be erected in honor of the tree’s history.
And one more thing.
“My next step is … how do you get pink paint off a tree?” she said.