Requiem for an Eastmoreland Sequoia

After growing for 85 years in Southeast Portland, the removal of this Giant Sequoia was not easy task …

For longer than eight decades, this Giant Sequoia has been an Eastmoreland landmark.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Dying trees having to be removed aren’t much of a story. But when building contractor Michael Harding alerted us that a Giant Sequoia was about to be removed, we took a look.

“Marian Bowman and her family moved here for over two decades ago,” Harding told us. But she wasn’t home today: “She couldn’t stay here and watch her favorite tree being cut down.”

Harding said the homeowner had spent thousands of dollars over the years in an attempt to save the tree. But, both the city and neighbors were concerned because branches kept falling off and showing other signs of disease.

Next door neighbor Candace Primack and her daughter Rachel say they’re sad to see the giant tree removed.

Concerned about the tree toppling
“We could see the base of the giant tree from our window,” said next-door-neighbor Candace Primack. “I remember how fun it was to look out and see the huge trunk, covered with snow in the winter, or surrounded with plants in the summer. It’s something you’d expect to see in a forest.”

But, more and more, the limbs were dying, Primack stated. And it’s started to lean ‚Äì toward their home ‚Äì markedly over the past two years. “Especially during a wind storm, it was a real concern. As large as it was, if it fell over, it would crush our house.”

Having lived there for 12 years, Primack said she and her family were sad to see the tree go. “It is a historical part of the neighborhood.”

“The owner told me many times that the bought the home mostly because of the tree. I know she loved it and is heartbroken that it has to come down. It makes me sad for her that it will be gone,” the neighbor commented to us, as she watched workers saw off the Giant Sequoia’s remaining branches.

Arborist Tim Beiswanger (standing) works out a strategy for removing the tree safely with the massive crane’s operator.

Huge crane removes Giant Sequoia – in sections
“This Giant Sequoia used to be 180 feet tall,” said Tim Beiswanger, a “high climber”, in charge of safely removing the tree.

About 85 years ago, Beiswanger said, a botanist came up from California and brought Sequoia starts with him. “He’s the reason there are Giant Sequoias around here.”

Beiswanger agreed it’s sad to see any old-growth tree removed. “But I do get a kick out of doing high climbing. It’s quite a view up there. I can see downtown Portland, Mt. Hood, and Mount St. Helens from the top.”

The arborist explained that the Sequoia has been dying slowly, from the top down. “Now that it has started to lean over, it’s time to remove it before it causes serious damage.”

A huge crane on a massive truck rumbled through the neighborhood. It took hours for the operators to set stabilizing jacks, put on the counterweights, and prepare for the lift.

After part of the trunk was hooked onto the crane’s lift line, the arborist cut off a section.

Beiswanger scampered up the tree’s towering trunk and set the choker — a loop that secured the tree to the crane’s lift line. He a chain-sawed portion off the tree, and the crane lifted it, then deposited it in the bed of a waiting truck.

The immensity of the tree came into focus, as portions were lowered into a truck.

Within a few hours, the Sequoia was standing there no more. We were told the last section lifted out weighed in excess of 14,000 pounds.

Rings on the section close to the base of the trunk indicate rapid growth for most of its life in Eastmoreland.

Looking at the rings, Beiswanger pointed out that the tree grew about an inch in diameter every year for decades. “It still was growing about a half-inch a year.”

The tree will live on, as art, the arborist said; the wood is destined for a decorative carver located just south of Oregon City on Highway 99E.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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