A majestic 230-year-old tree in Pelham Bay Park was one of the casualties of Winter Storm Riley.
The park’s Great White Oak, located near the Middletown Road parking lot, was felled during the nor’easter on Friday, March 2, a storm that left a tangle of splintered tree trunks and downed power lines in its path.
Park advocates, including the Friends of Pelham Bay Park, mourned the loss of the tree, which was more than 90 inches in diameter and a park landmark.
The tree was often a focal point on nature hikes led by Urban Park Rangers, said a NYC Parks Department spokeswoman, adding that the agency worked diligently to care for and monitor the tree, including fixing a large cavity hole to prolong its life.
“It is one of the oldest trees in the park and we are very sad about it,” said parks’ activist Nilka Martell.
Martell suggested that portions of the felled tree should be saved and used in a constructive way in the park.
Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, FPBP’s former president, was stunned when she heard the news.
“That tree was phenomenally beautiful, so it is a loss,” said Gonzalez. “It is everything that a tree should be – sheltering, majestic, a refuge and inspiration and a testament to the beauty of the creator.”
The Park’s Department confirmed that the oak was widely admired.
“This Great White Oak was beloved by our foresters, Urban Park Rangers, and nature lovers throughout the city,” said Jennifer Greenfeld, NYC parks assistant commissioner.
Greenfeld that that while it was a sad moment, Bronxites can “take solace in the fact that the tree’s lineage will live on.”
“Two of the tree’s descendants are growing nearby, and we’re working to clone those offspring, so future generations can enjoy the same majesty,” said Greenfeld.
The Parks Department received some 290 calls for downed trees during the storm in the borough, which pounded seaside communities in the east Bronx especially hard and impacted the entire borough.
According to Governor Cuomo’s office, there were several thousand power outages in the borough.
There were about ten felled trees on Pelham Parkway.
George Zulch an environmental activist with the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance, was elated that the parkway’s most majestic and admired trees, its Linden trees, held their own in the storm.
The PPPA fought successfully to save many of these Linden trees from the ax when the southern roadways of the parkway were reconstructed several years ago.
“They have been scared and hit by cars, but they are surprising sturdy trees,” he said, adding “Despite any damage to these trees from storms, they seem to withstand it.
In Pelham Bay Park, a large tree at a traffic circle near City Island was uprooted, and an evergreen used as the official Christmas tree in Hawkins Park came down.
At Edgewater Park, a tree that fell near the complex’s entrance temporarily limited access to the community on Friday, March 2.
In the west Bronx, CUNY Lehman College’s campus did not see significant damage, said a spokesman.
At New York Botanical Garden, Deanna Curtis, curator and landscape project manager, said that while the storm did damage to some of the garden’s trees, they did not experience the damage seen elsewhere, such as in Westchester county.
“A handful of trees from various collections uprooted around the grounds, as did several trees within the NYBG’s Thain Family Forest,” she said.
Several dozen property owners reported the loss of sidewalk and yard trees, mostly evergreens.