PORT ANGELES — The largest madrona in the state, once a widow’s cherished memorial to the love of her life as well as a local landmark, is coming down.
The madrona in Ted’s Tree Park at 231 W. Eighth St. east of Cherry Street is at an estimated 400 years old considered to be one of the oldest of its kind in the state. It has a circumference of more than 21 feet and a crown spread of at least 95 feet shading more than half of West Eighth Street.
“The tree was dead,” said Arborist Travis Waddell of Pacific Northwest Tree Service on Friday.
Wood from the tree is a darker hue than the rich, reddish-orange of a healthy madrona.
“This one doesn’t really have that, as you can see,” Waddell said.
On Friday, crews with North Star Earthworks and Pacific Northwest Tree Service removed some of the evergreen’s branches. On Monday, Eighth Street between Oak and Cherry streets will be closed to traffic as they continue the work.
Andy Pittman, owner of North Star Earthworks, said Saturday that provisions will be in place on Monday to ensure that any spectators remain at a safe distance.
The last green branch of the tree succumbed about two months after the death in March of Virginia Serr, its caretaker for more than 20 years, at the age of 93.
“It turned brown and died within a couple of months of her,” said John Miller, her son-in-law, on Friday.
“She and the tree expired at the same time.”
In 2013, arborist James Causton of Port Angeles — who had worked since 1990 to help it, winning in 2000 the International Society of Arboriculture, Pacific Northwest Chapter, Individual Arborist Award in part because of his preservation efforts — said that that the monolithic tree was terminally ill with a root fungus caused by excessive groundwater.
“We knew this day was coming,” said Miller, who worked in insurance until his retirement.
“Everybody hates to see a big old tree go. But it isn’t safe.
“It’s hanging over a day care center and a road. There’s no way it could stay.”
Serr had created Ted’s Tree Park around the huge tree in memory of her late husband, Ted Serr, who died in 1997. The two had eloped, according to her obituary, in 1946 and moved to Port Angeles in 1953. He was a dentist who had admired the tree as he passed it daily. She bought the 7,000-square-foot commercial lot for $57,000 in July 1999. In 2006, she had the sign “Ted’s Tree Park” erected. She spent a great deal of time and effort maintaining the tree.
“It’s a little bit of a hard day for us today,” said Miller whose wife, Jacalyn, inherited the property from her mother.
“The tree has been in the family for years,” he said.
The madrona, estimated at 85-feet-tall, will be cut down to multiple stems of varying lengths, said Andy Pittman, owner of North Star Earthworks, on Saturday. Miller estimated the longest stem could end up at 20 feet tall.
What is done with it after that will be up to the owner of the next-door Madronna Children’s Academy, who has leased the property from the Millers.
“Luckily, they’re going to do something cool with it, from the sound of it,” Waddell said.
Miller said the wood will be distributed to a variety of people, including to a local woodturners club.
“The wood is going for good things,” he said.
Traffic will be detoured from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, said Thomas Hunter, Port Angeles public works director. Drivers turning onto Eighth from Lincoln Street will be detoured to Fifth Street. Local businesses will have access, he said.
A sidewalk across the street will be open for observers, Pittman said, adding that spectators need to stay 125 feet away.
“It’s a dead tree, so when we’re lowering pieces, when they touch other branches” they can snap off and fly farther than if the tree were alive, he said.
“We understand it’s a big portion of this community,” Pittman said of the landmark tree, but “we need to maintain a safe distance.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this story.