OPOLIS — One of Opolis’s signature landmarks is set to be cut down following a fire over the weekend.
Described as the second largest ash tree in Kansas, the tree caught fire Saturday at Maggie Grebe Memorial Park. During a town meeting, it was decided that the tree would be cut down June 2.
Baker Township Fire Department Chief Mike Ryan said the cause of the fire is unknown.
“We don’t really know what happened other than it caught on fire and one of the girls here in town was coming home around 10 p.m. and saw it was flaming,” resident Debbie Mertz said. “By midnight, most of the town was there because we were all like ‘oh my gosh, our blessed tree!’”
According to Mertz, the tree is at least 100 years old.
“This tree is the heart of our park,” she said. “I have had Facebook messages from kids that grew up here who haven’t been here for 30 years and they expressed how sad they were about us losing our tree.”
The resident said a county extension agent had noticed problems with the tree prior to the fire, including cracks and hollow spaces.
“In a public place like that park, you really can’t take a chance,” Mertz said. “Some people are saying they would like to take a log and maybe carve their name on it so they can put it in their front yard.”
The Mertz family has its own plans for what is left of the tree, too.
“We do crafts for a living and we want to make a bench for us,” the resident said. “Our big thing is Christmas ornaments and I’m sure I’ll make some out of that tree.”
Mertz reminisced on her experiences with the ash tree.
“I would take my kids over there when they were little and just in those swings,” she said. “Our park and that tree in particular is our connection to the good old days, you know?”
— Brandon Schmitz is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.