By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw
WARSAW — The giant Sycamore tree, a source of oxygen for animals and a shelter for birds, squirrels and racoons for more than 300 years, received a friendly dose of adoration on Saturday.
A celebration of the tree’s past and a desire to see it remain intact long into the future at the corner of Sheridan and Colfax streets in Warsaw came together Saturday one week after it came to light that it was targeted for removal to make way for one of many new sidewalks that are part of a $3.2 million effort by the city to improve safety near Lincoln Elementary.
in recent days, an effort led by homeowner Gita Kamdar to save the tree has given the city pause to reconsider its plan for the tree.
At the same time, supporters of the Sycamore which is now estimated to be more than 330 years old sought to certify its historical significance.
An arborist said earlier this week it’s possibly the biggest Sycamore tree he’s ever seen and some contend it could be the oldest existing tree in the city.
On Saturday, another dimension of its vastness was documented with the help of two men who measured its circumference and determined it to be 225 inches.
“This tree is older than the country is and it will be here long after all of us are gone — if we let it,” said Richard Rooker who wrapped a measuring tape around the base with the help of Chuck Sauders, a longtime educator.
“I walk by here all the time and we always comment on the magnificence and the majesty of this tree. It’s a magnificent tree,” Rooker said.
“This tree should not be cut down,” Sauders said. “This tree needs to stay.”
In a week of media attention stretching from Fort Wayne to South Bend, there’s been virtually no opposition to those kinds of sentiments.
Saturday’s gathering was intended to pay homage to the tree in hopes of helping strengthen its widening base of community support.
There were balloons placed alongside the “Save the Sycamore” sign and a white ribbon was tied around the base, overlapping the pink paint that showed up earlier this month, marking the tree for its proposed demise.
Children drew messages on the driveway with big blocks of chalk. A petition was available for signatures of support and stickers were distributed as part of the grassroots campaign.
About 40 or so people stopped by to lend their support and a steady honk of horns from passing motorists offered a similar messages for more than two hours.
One common theme aired by many is the connection between trees and local history and the importance o history.
Retired teacher Gene Butts, who used to bring students over from Lincoln to learn about the tree returned again on Saturday.
He said he feels confident it will be saved.
Understanding the local history — even the significance of a tree that dates back to when native Indians called the area home — is important, he and others said.
The tree’s future caught fire in an article published by the Times-Union a week ago.
“That’s what’s great about being in a small town like Warsaw-Winona Lake,” said Scott Gardonio, who attended Saturday’s rally with his wife, Kandi. “That’s all it takes is one good article and boom! The fire’s lit and hopefully, it keeps going.”
Kamdar addressed the crowd and said she was pleased with the turnout and the fact that many people shared stories about the tree.
“This is just the beginning, hopefully, of something that sets a precedent in Kosciusko County,” Kamdar said. “Our first step is honoring history instead of removing it or paving over it.
City Planner Justin Taylor said earlier in the week that they were getting closer to a solution and waiting to hear from the Indiana Department of Transportation on whether it has state approval.
Taylor said they expect to have answer within days.