ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s one of the most revered buildings in all of Limestone County. That would be the 97 year old Limestone County Courthouse in Athens. County commissioners have agonized for months over the fate of two old trees on the courthouse lawn. They had become too large, and dangerous, posing a threat to the building and to the public who use it. So now, the seat of local government has a new look.
We stopped by the courthouse Friday afternoon for one last look at the old Atlas Cedar tree on the east side of the building. No one knows exactly how long its been there, but no one can remember a time when it wasn’t. Until now.
Work began early Saturday morning removing the cedar on the East side of the building. County commissioners opted for a company that would rely on a climber instead of putting a huge bucket truck on the grounds.
“Been climbin’ for a long time,” says Randy Norman, 20 to 25 years, in fact. His job is to climb up, attach a rope to the higher end of a limb, climb down to the lower end of it, and then cut. The guys on the other end of the ropes gently lower the limb to the ground.
“It’s a big tree. It’s got a lot of long limbs in it, you know. They’re about 40 or 50 foot long limbs in it, you know,” Norman says.
The ground crew was also responsible for dragging smaller limbs to a chipper that instantly converted the wood and needles into a fine mulch. There was enough to fill a truck twice. The bigger limbs were hauled away. Some will wind up in a fire place, and some may make it to a mill to be converted into lumber. Still other pieces of the old tree were carried home as keepsakes.
“I’ve been looking at it all my life, living here and seeing it grow. But isn’t it pretty,” asked Athens resident Marjorie Walker holding two specially cut pieces of one of the limbs? She plans to put the pieces of wood on display just as they are.
There was a general sadness among the dozens who came by throughout the day to watch the work, but everyone we spoke with seemed to understand why this was happening.
“I hate it but I feel it’s really time for it to come down,” Athens resident Doris Estes tells WHNT News 19.
And down it came, one limb at a time until there were only a few, and then fewer, and then none. Only the ennormous trunk remained and minutes later, it was felled with a heavy thud.
“I love this courthouse. I want to keep it operational and the integrity of the courthouse needs to be maintained. It is our court building and I just think its great that we maintain it.”
And so the magnificant old tree is gone now, only to reveal behind it, a magnificant old building. There is another old Atlas Cedar on the opposite side of the courthouse. It’s scheduled to be taken down next week.
— Al Whitaker