We understand why some Marion County residents are upset about two live oak trees being cut down in front of the courthouse. The building that dates to 1905 is a beautiful, historic structure that often serves as a symbol of Columbia.
The pride it instills in residents is a good thing that helps bind the community together. People are going to be interested in any change to the courthouse because they do not want its character to be altered.
However, the decision by the Board of Supervisors last week to have the trees removed did not subtract from the courthouse’s charm. In fact, it will improve the vistas. The view when driving south on Main Street now shows more of the courthouse itself, rather than it being partially obscured by trees. When the Christmas lights are up, it should be particularly spectacular.
Also, such landscaping changes have been made before. We found records in the newspaper’s archives of another tree, which was diseased, being cut down in 1984 and replaced.
Although we haven’t been able to find any documentation about when the live oaks were planted, it is not nearly as far back as the life of the courthouse. Photos from the early 20th century show no trees in that position. One longtime Columbian said he remembers when they were planted, saying that they replaced some older trees, that they were already fairly large when installed and that it was when Billy Ray McKenzie was a member of the Board of Supervisors. McKenzie served from 1972 to 1999, so the longest those trees could have been in place was 47 years.
Trees, like all living things, have life spans. When they start to near the end, they have problems like disease and rot. That creates a chance of limbs falling on people or the building. Furthermore, the extensive roots of the live oaks caused substantial damage to concrete and sewers near the courthouse. Although lovely, it was simply their time to go.
Taxpayers are fortunate that Looks Great Services felled the trees and ground the stumps at no cost to the public. Anyone who has ever priced a tree job knows that it’s not cheap, especially when near a building, which increases the risk and time it takes to do the work.
Expect the hullabaloo over the cutting of the trees to disappear by the time the courthouse lights are turned on at the Christmas parade, and everyone sees first-hand what the courthouse looks like without them.