Lakewood’s Moses Cleaveland Tree to come down

LAKEWOOD, OH – The oldest tree in Lakewood, and one of the top 20 oldest trees in the State of Ohio, will soon have to be cut down.

By the city’s best estimation, the White Oak Moses Cleaveland Tree on Summit Avenue in Lakewood is approximately 250 years old.

“We put the tree right around 250 years old, plus or minus a decade or two, which is still a very old tree. It could share the same birthday as George Washington and not be totally out of the realm of possibility,” said Lakewood’s arborist Chris Perry.

While the tree has a long and storied history and is known by almost everyone in Lakewood, it’s dying, and arborists call it a liability.

“It’s not safe, there is a massive amount of decay present. We’ve been monitoring it and measuring it. The decay is growing an additional two feet into the tree,” said Perry.

The tree is 90 feet tall and has a diameter of 75 inches. At the most recent measurement in December of 2017, the decay cavity in the tree was 6’38’’ deep and the trees largest branches are being held up with cables.

“It’s a sad day but it’s a necessary evil with urban forestry - all trees have the end of their life,” Perry said.

Certified arborist and consultant John Palmer is working on a plan to keep the tree alive—even after it is cut down.

“Heritage or legacy on ancient trees like this are really...they are becoming less common. A lot of us in the tree industry love to try and see if we can save them,” Palmer said.

Palmer is taking clippings from the tree and is working with expert organizations in Ohio and Michigan to graft the clippings onto White Oak stock and hopefully bring the trees back to Lakewood.

“What you have to do is you have to graft them onto similar root stalks so white oak or swamp white oak,” Palmer explained.

The Lakewood Moses Cleaveland tree means a lot to many people in the city. Olga Wolters has lived on Summit Avenue for 40 years and has a beautiful view of the tree from her front porch.

“I’m going to miss it, very, very, very, much because I’ve been here for so long,” Wolters said.

Palmer himself grew up in Lakewood and remembers riding his bike around the tree. “There is not a person alive that wasn’t born when this tree was already here so I think it’s just, it’s a point of pride,” Palmer said. “It’s always been here and when something that’s always been here is now suddenly gone, it hits you here,” he continued, pointing to his heart.

Paulette Penzvalto made a trip back to Summit Street where she grew up just to say goodbye to the tree. “When I was a kid this tree had a lot of memories for us because our parents always established this as the farthest boundary,” she said.

Penzvalto now lives in California and was back in Lakewood for a work trip. “This tree represents home for me and so when I heard that they were going to be taking it down it was really like an end of an era,” she said.

Penzvalto says the tree was a huge part of her childhood and she is glad to hear people like Palmer are working to keep the tree alive.

“I think it’s fantastic that they are going to try and preserve that history and preserve that for future generations,” she said.

There is no official date set for the tree to come down, but Perry says it will likely be in the next couple of weeks. The city plans to take the biggest part of the tree’s trunk as possible and use it to map out a history of Lakewood. They also want to preserve parts of the trunk in a place so that the public can still see it.