LAKELAND (FOX 13) - The iconic oak tree that sits at the corner of Success Avenue and Lake Morton Drive, known as Lovers Oak, is actually three trees that grew together over the last 150 years.
Last summer, experts deemed the 55-foot tall oak was decaying and needed to go after a large branch crashed onto a passing car. Neighbors rallied behind their beloved tree, and the city called in an arborist to take a closer look.
“We did everything that science knows to do to that tree,” said consulting arborist Joe Samnik. “We did x-rays, we did a sonogram, we took infrared drone photography.”
Samnik’s crews spent two days in March running those tests and collecting samples to figure out if the oak is safe.
In order for it to stay and be healthy, he says the old tree needs sophisticated pruning and room to expand its roots.
Samnik laid out three recommendations: Tear up the sidewalk to give Lovers Oak more space, rip out the sidewalk as well as the soil and grass growing over the roots, or the third option, which he says is the best one.
“Take the sidewalk up, take the street up around the root system of the tree, improve the growing area, put in a very simple, inexpensive above ground irrigation system, and you’ve got a tree there that could live to be 300 years old,” Samnik said.
That was the idea many folks say they’re behind.
“The tree is historic and it holds a great deal of meaning for people who live in Lakeland,” Sheli Owens said.
“I’d like to see it stay here, hate to see them tear it down,” said Jeff McDonald. “I think it’s an excellent idea. We can single-lane this road, or do whatever it takes to keep the tree up here. I mean it is pretty important to us.”
“Well I guess really if we’re going to save the tree we need to go all out,” Owens added.
City leaders sent FOX 13 this statement:
”We have recently received the detailed report from our consultant, Mr. Joe Samnik, on the “Lovers Oak”. Over the next few weeks staff and City administration will be evaluating the report findings and developing an analysis and outlining cost associated with the recommendations for further discussion.” –Tony Delgado, City Manager