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Part of the Orton Park tree that was damaged in a recent tornado on Madison's east side will be saved for kids to play on, but the final design will not be as elaborate as neighbors had hoped.
In the early hours of June 17, the massive oak fell in the middle of the park, its crown landing in the middle of a swing set. Those upper branches were cleared by the city, but the bulk of the tree has remained strewn across the sidewalk for several weeks surrounded by police tape.
Neighbors had convinced the city to wait on chopping up the tree and removing it, arguing that the tree could be used as a fun climbing structure for kids.
Now, the city has agreed to let the neighbors use a part of the tree for some form of a play structure, but it is not yet known what that will be. Neighbors also will be responsible for paying an arborist to move the chunk of tree into a pea gravel pit on the playground, an area deemed suitable for a stable play spot.
"Madison Parks forestry staff evaluated the tree, and determined that while some is damaged, part of the tree can remain," the Parks Department said in a statement. "The neighbors can move the tree remnant to a gravel area that used to house play equipment."
Last Thursday, city crews were headed to the park to chop up the part of the tree that is not usable, according to Parks spokeswoman Laura Whitmore. They are moving the remaining part of the tree off the sidewalk.
"Once it's cut down to size we'll be able to reevaluate it for how it could be used," said T.R. Loon, who lives next to the park, after a meeting last week with the city to discuss the fate of the tree.
The remaining chunk of the tree is about 15 feet long, he said, "about equally branch and trunk. And we know it will have to be cut down from that."
The neighbors are now charged with coming up with a proposal on how best to use the remaining wood and then the city must approve it.
The pro-play structure group may want to leave the tree in a similar form to what it is currently, or cut up the logs and create some "stepping stones," Loon said.
"(Madison Parks) did say if nothing else, we'll get a couple more logs out of it," he added.