Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Showcasing Safety Harbor's Baranoff Oak harmed it, arborists say

SAFETY HARBOR

Arborists are working to revive what may be the oldest and most treasured tree in Pinellas County after an effort to showcase the majestic Baranoff Oak blocked its ability to get the nutrients it needs to survive.

Safety Harbor spent $350,000 in 2005 to construct a decorative tribute to the downtown oak, including a parking lot, red brick plaza, statues, a pedestrian walkway and benches where people can sit and admire the thick branches draped with moss.

But arborists say that well-intentioned project caused the tree to get sick by leaving a relatively small area of unpaved ground where the tree can obtain vital water and nutrients.

About a dozen arborists and other volunteers will work together this week to undo the damage, hoping to restore the tree's health. City workers have already begun to peel back some of the brick and remove the statues. Among other tasks, volunteers will spread customized dirt, specially manufactured to give the tree the nutrients it needs. And the city is installing irrigation and lightning protection systems.

The tree's thinning upper canopy is a telltale sign it's in trouble, said Alan Mayberry, an arborist working on the project.

"We're trying to catch this now," he said. "It's never going to regain its former glory as far as being a dense crown up above. But I would say the decline is mostly reversible."

Safety Harbor has allocated $20,000 to help the tree, although City Manager Matt Spoor estimated the cost would be much less. He said the city will do whatever is necessary, within reason, to make sure the tree survives.

"The goal of building the park was to preserve the tree," said Spoor, who was hired by Safety Harbor after the project was under way. "I think everyone would agree there may have been some unintended consequences."

The tree stands on private property between Main and Second streets, adjacent to the Safety Harbor Public Library. UCITA Properties Inc. owns the property, but is sharing it with the city to preserve the tree and allow the public to enjoy the space.

The Baranoff Oak may be one of Safety Harbor's most famous residents.

The tree is named after Salem Baranoff, a doctor who owned the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. The Live Oak Society of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation placed the tree on its historic registry of live oaks maintained since 1934.

With a trunk nearly 20 feet in diameter, experts estimate the tree weighs about 800 tons.

Joe Samnik, who owns a tree consulting firm in Palm Harbor, is leading the effort to restore the tree. He said it is 300 years old, although estimates of its age vary widely.

American Consulting Engineers of Florida constructed Baranoff Park in 2005. It's unclear whether the company consulted an arborist during the project.

City documents show the company went out of its way not to disturb the tree. But according to Samnik, they didn't do enough. "Our job is to turn back the hands of time," Samnik said. "Other than keeping water on it and keeping people off the root system, there's nothing I can do besides stand back, keep people off the roots and pray."

Mike Lohmeyer, 55, said his family has enjoyed the oak for generations. His father played on the tree, he said. And as a boy of 10 or 12, he and his friends climbed and dangled from the oak's thick lower limbs, seemingly designed for childhood mischief.

Best he can remember, climbing was banned on the tree when his sons, now in their 20s, were young. "It's more than just a tree. It's seen many people in its life, generation after generation," he said. "If that tree could talk, what it could tell you would be phenomenal."

Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or 850-323-0353. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

 
Comments
Forecast: Relative calm before Invest 90L threatens to deluge Tampa Bay this weekend

Forecast: Relative calm before Invest 90L threatens to deluge Tampa Bay this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — While rain chances will decrease over the next two days, it is only a relative calm before a broad low pressure system moves into the Gulf of Mexico, producing strong storms across an already drenched Tampa Bay for Memorial Day weeke...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

TAMPA — The name of the new Bay 3 co-working space at the Armature Works goes back to World War I, when the red-brick warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River was the maintenance barn for Tampa Electric’s streetcar system.As the name suggests, it...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Bayport Pier reconstruction on hold as Hernando commissioners grapple with budget shortfall

Bayport Pier reconstruction on hold as Hernando commissioners grapple with budget shortfall

BROOKSVILLE — The concept of a multimillion dollar budget crisis and the reality of one are two very different things, as Hernando County Commissioners learned Tuesday.Faced with an $11.5 million shortfall going into the new budget year, they discuss...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
CareerSource Pinellas bought a science center. Now the bill is coming due.

CareerSource Pinellas bought a science center. Now the bill is coming due.

In 2014, Tampa Bay jobs chief Edward Peachey sought to save the failing Science Center of Pinellas County.He asked a small panel of CareerSource Pinellas board members to let him acquire the educational center for $100.The Science Center, he said, ha...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Trash fees to appear on tax bills in the Spring Hill mandatory zone

Trash fees to appear on tax bills in the Spring Hill mandatory zone

BROOKSVILLE — County commissioners knew what they were in for.Inundated with emails and phone calls before Tuesday’s meeting, and facing an unhappy crowd of customers from the county’s garbage hauler Republic Services, county officials tried to get a...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration (w/video)

Commandos to unleash fury in downtown Tampa, but it’s just a demonstration (w/video)

TAMPA — Machines of war will unleash their fury in downtown Tampa on Wednesday afternoon, but it’s just a demonstration.Special operations forces from around the world are scheduled to stage a mock confrontation of good guys versus bad guys from 1:30...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Termite damage poses a threat as hurricane season approaches, study says

Termite damage poses a threat as hurricane season approaches, study says

The start of hurricane season is just days away, and Florida residents might want to add one more thing to their preparation list: a termite inspection.Termite damage in houses and trees can leave homes vulnerable to suffering even more damage during...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Associated PressPHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney. Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dade City honors deputy killed 15 years ago

Dade City honors deputy killed 15 years ago

DADE CITY — Fifteen years after the slaying of Pasco Sheriff’s Capt. Charles "Bo" Harrison brought shock and sadness to the community that loved him, emotions still run high as more honors come his way.Pasco County is preparing to honor Harrison’s me...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Gasparilla Bowl moving from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium

Gasparilla Bowl moving from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium

After a decade at Tropicana Field, the Gasparilla Bowl is moving across the bay to Raymond James Stadium, bowl officials announced Wednesday morning.The move begins this year, with RJS set to host ESPN's game at 8 p.m. on Dec. 20. The stadium's other...
Updated: 1 hour ago