Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gulfport grieves old cedar shade tree after tornado

Some say it's older than the city itself. Others aren't so sure.

Before it became a celebrated storm casualty on June 6, the old cedar in front of Yummy's at 2914 Beach Blvd. in Gulfport stood tall to the sky for decades, provided shady relief from summer's heat, and offered the perfect vantage point for parades.

The spreading cedar fell victim to a brief tornado that tore through the town on a Thursday morning. The strong wind broke off several large branches, dropping a few on the north corner of Yummy's, crushing the front porch and smashing furniture.

The mangled cedar has since been trimmed, leaving a large trunk, sawed-off limbs and one large branch intact, pointing north.

"That tree, among all the trees along Beach Boulevard, has been the most beloved," said Daniel Hodges, former manager of the Gulfport Fresh Market. "More people focus on that tree than any other, especially during the (twice monthly) Art Walks.

"I remember a lot of kids rope-climbing that tree, too," he said. So do others.

Gulfport's former mayor, Mike Yakes, remembers bringing his grandkids to the tree when it was filled with pulleys and ropes for climbing.

"They loved hanging out in that tree,'' he said. "It was pretty special to them."

Kristen Bohlander came from St. Petersburg to take photos of the damaged old cedar for her kids.

"When my son Evan heard about the tree, he was very sad and wanted to come see it," she said. Evan played around the tree for several years while his 13-year-old sister, Mya, performed onstage at the Art Village Courtyard where Yummy's is.

"We used to play hide-and-seek, and toss balls through the branches," he said. "I like that tree. I'm going to miss the shade."

He's not the only one who will miss the shade of the storm-damaged cedar. Jason Webb, owner of Kilpatrick Produce, benefited from the cedar's large branches as he sold fruits and vegetables at Gulfport's farmers market.

"Normally we set up about eight tents," he said. "Without the shade, we just set up a few more. But it's a big loss for sure."

Yummy's co-owner Richard Reale feels perhaps the greatest loss.

"That tree has been captured in so many photographs over the years," he said. It became a landmark of sorts. But now, he lamented: "The tornado definitely changed the landscape."

All is not lost, however. At least one tree specialist believes, with a little help, the old cedar will survive.

St. Petersburg's John Bolender, an internationally certified arborist, worked on the tree 25 years ago and he said that as long as there's wood and green remaining, there's hope. He also suggested it may need an injection to ensure its longevity.

"I'll do everything I can to preserve that old shade tree," he said. "If I were that tree, I'd want someone to give me a shot."

For some, the tree symbolized something special about Gulfport itself.

"I always felt the tree welcomed people to downtown Gulfport," Yakes said. "I'm sure seeing the storm's aftermath affects some of us deeply. But at the same time it reminds us that we could have fared much worse.

"I'm hopeful Mother Nature lets that tree grow back," he said.

Diane Craig can be reached at dmcraig@hotmail.com.

Gulfport grieves old cedar shade tree after tornado 06/15/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 4:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bill Nelson knocks Rick Scott over Senate health bill

    Blogs

    Sen. Bill Nelson attacked Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 rival, over today's trip to Washington.

  2. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:09: Rays have activated Hechavarria and sent down Robertson.

    Also, C Derek Norris was released; he had been DFA'd last week.

    The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.
  3. LaVar Ball appears at WWE event, son LaMelo uses slur

    Blogs

    LOS ANGELES  -- LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring. 
    The outspoken father of NBA Draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly-minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old son LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday's "WWE …

    LaVar Ball took off his shirt during a WWE broadcast.
  4. Facing defections, Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote

    National

    WASHINGTON — In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom, right, and communications staff director Antonia Ferrier, left, as they walk to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. Senate Republicans unveil a revised health care bill in hopes of securing support from wavering GOP lawmakers, including one who calls the drive to whip his party's bill through the Senate this week "a little offensive." [Associated Press]
  5. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]