Big tree comes down at Calipari house

bfortune@herald-leader.comMay 12, 2009 

If a tree falls in Coach John Calipari's yard, is it front page news?

Chuckle if you will. But a story about a large pin oak cut down in the front yard of the house University of Kentucky men's basketball coach Calipari is buying was the second-most-read story on Kentucky.com on Monday.

Ruben Tree Service of Winchester started work Sunday morning to remove a massive pin oak in the front yard of 1732 Richmond Road. The crew worked until 6:30 p.m. Employees Juan Delgado and Adolfo Duarte returned with chain saws early Monday, cutting the huge trunk into slices.

Delgado estimated that it took 30 man-hours to take the tree down and haul it to the landfill.

One person, annoyed at seeing the pin oak felled, said it was so large it might have dated to the original Henry Clay farm.

To set the record straight, Lexington certified arborist Dave Leonard said, "No pin oaks were here in Lexington during Henry Clay's time." Pin oaks were introduced in the early 1900s to landscape Chevy Chase.

B. G. Hubbs, certified arborist and owner of Community Tree Care, was hired to evaluate the health of the tree.

"The whole top half was dead," Hubbs said. "Actually, it was pretty hazardous. That tree was so far gone, all the leaves you saw were just sucker growth."

At one point, Hubbs consulted with the city's urban forester, Tim Queary, to see whether the tree was in a historic neighborhood.

"We checked. It is not a historic neighborhood," Queary said. He concurred with Hubbs' assessment that the tree suffered from crown die-back and was slowly dying.

The biggest surviving pin oak that Leonard knew about in Chevy Chase was cut down recently. "It was 6 feet in diameter," he said. When the rings were counted, the tree was estimated to be 70 years old.

The Calipari tree, by contrast, was only about 4 feet across.

Leonard noticed the tree about five years ago when the house was being built. With the soil disturbance around the tree roots, he figured it was due for trouble. "They didn't do the tree any favor," he said.

He contacted homeowner Garry Milton to recommend a program to preserve the health of the tree.

"I told him, you need a program of care for that tree. It's the centerpiece of the front yard," Leonard said.

But his suggestion was turned down. On Monday, the last of the pin oak was taken down.

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