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Heartbroken, Town Says 'Bye' To Beloved 154-Year-Old Pecan Tree Deemed 'Unsafe'

HIGHLAND PARK (CBSDFW.COM) - The town of Highland Park is preparing to say goodbye to a historic landmark. The "Big Pecan Tree" has seen generations of tree-lightings at the holidays, but, in early October, crews will begin the process of removing it. Town leaders say it's heartbreaking but inevitable.

It's the gateway to Highland Park, a sentimental symbol older than any resident.

"The tree's beautiful. It's a special part of our town's history," says resident Alison Stone.

But the 154-year-old Million Dollar Monarch, as this pecan tree is known, is beyond repair, according to experts.

(credit: CBS 11 News)

"It is on its last legs, really," says landscape designer and Highland Park resident Melissa Gerstle. "There's not much more they can do. And it's so sad, but it's time, unfortunately, to say goodbye."

Town leaders worked with a certified arborist for years to buy the Big Pecan Tree more time. It's been fertilized, cabled, and protected, but now it's a question of public safety.

"It's a busy street," Gerstle says. "When the branch structure becomes weakened and the tree is in a debilitated state, they will ultimately have to take that tree down before it does it on its own naturally."

Highland Park's Mayor says it will be an emotional goodbye, but they'll preserve as much of the tree and tradition as possible. The annual tree-lighting will transition to a "sister tree" that shares the Big Pecan's DNA. And they'll dry the wood to craft commemorative items. Residents say it was the only logical choice.

"It's sad. It's really heartbreaking, especially with the tradition and the history," says resident Laura Moon. "Having said that, this is part of the circle of life, and we move on, and, I think, so to speak, the torch is getting passed to the next tree."

The process of removing the the tree should take 2-3 days and cost around $25,000. The town has not yet decided what, if anything, to put in its place.

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