Tayamentasachta’s chinquipin oak in trouble

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Director of Environmental Studies Kerri Barnes and arborist Daniel Cardenas examine the damage to the school district’s beloved Chinquipin Oak. Because it is so close to a trail and a playground, the district wants to protect the public should another limb fall.

The Chinquipin Oak at Tayamentasachta is under close scrutiny. Its largest limb, called a lead by arborists, came down in May. It was not a stormy night, but bad weather had hit the area a few days earlier.

School personnel discovered the huge branch on the ground. They consulted Bartlett Tree Experts on what to do.

The tree service sent out agents several times to assess the damage and determine the oak’s best fate. A crew cut up the fallen log.

“There was a flattened squirrel beneath the branch,” said Kerri Barnes, director of the Greencastle-Antrim School District environmental center.

The gaping hole, over three feet wide, revealed a raccoon’s nest. The view into the hollow trunk also showed decay.

Daniel Cardenas, Barlett arborist representative, shared the results of the inspections.

“There are so many wounds,” he said on Thursday. “We want to try to mitigate risk to the tree. It’s in such a crucial location.”

The 360-year-old tree stands yards from the primary school playground and towers over a walking trail. While the tree itself was not in danger of toppling, other limbs could also come down on their own.

Cardenas recommended trimming back the two largest leads to lower the weight of the crown, or preferably just putting a barrier, such a a fence, around the dripline so no one would be injured if a piece fell. The company could mulch the contained area. The trail would have to be shifted.

“This is better news than I anticipated,” Barnes said.

She planned to speak to business manager Jolinda Wilson on the next step.

Cardnas said if the tree was not damaged, it could live another 100 years. It had already surpassed the average lifespan.

Caution tape has been in place to warn visitors to steer clear of the tree.

Fast facts

Greencastle’s chinquipin might be 70 feet high, though it used to be 84 feet. Cardenas said old trees turn in on themselves. The crown is 50 feet wide.

The oak weighs hundreds of tons.

Its diameter is 65 inches, the widest Cardenas has seen in his career.

Other names for the yellow oak are chinquapin, chinkapin and Quercus muehlenbergii.