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Dec-03-2007 16:21printcomments

Oregon's Largest Sitka Spruce Breaks Apart in Storm

The tree split apart early Sunday morning at approximately 75 feet above the ground.

Worlds largest Sitka Spruce
Photo courtesy: Oregon Dept. of Forestry

(SEASIDE, Ore.) - Oregon's largest living thing, the National co-champion Sitka Spruce tree in southern Clatsop County, was severely damaged by the weekend storm that struck the Oregon coast.

Known as the Seaside Spruce or the Klootchy Creek Giant, the tree had shared the title of the country's largest Sitka spruce with another one in Washington's Olympic National Park. At seventeen feet in diameter and 206 feet tall, it was not only the largest of its kind, but was also the first tree designated as an Oregon Heritage Tree.

After the December 2006 storm, officials from Clatsop County, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee determined that the tree was too weakened by time and nature to save, but that public interest in the tree and its unique history merited a response of letting the tree stand and letting nature take its course.

Clatsop County Parks officials erected a fence a safe distance away from the tree, and installed interpretive materials telling the story of the dying tree.

Media reports indicate that the tree split apart early Sunday morning at approximately 75 feet above the ground. This event had been expected since a December 2006 windstorm opened up an old lightning scar running from 40 to 80 feet above the ground. It was along this scar that the tree ultimately failed on Sunday.

"This tree was an Oregon icon," said Paul Ries, an urban forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry and a member of the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee. "The tree failed exactly as we expected it to, and while it represents the loss of a unique state landmark, it also represents an opportunity to see the life cycle of the forest in action."

"This tree has been visited by hundreds of thousands of people and its slow decline allows people the chance to witness the evolving story of this forest giant," observed Jim Renner, manager of the Oregon Heritage Tree program. Clatsop County officials will ultimately determine the best course of how to manage the remaining portion of the tree. The Oregon Heritage Tree Committee will address the tree's fate as a state Heritage Tree next month.

The next chapter of the story of this tree is waiting to unfold and be told – perhaps allowing the old giant to give life as a "nurse log" to new Sitkas.

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Neal Feldman December 3, 2007 11:24 pm (Pacific time)

Always sad to see something with that much history go away. Ah well...

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