OCEAN CITY — An old tree with “a lot of character” was spared the bulldozer recently when town officials decided to save it when paving a new municipal parking lot at 4th Street and as a result it has become a rather unique piece of natural art in the downtown area.
Ocean City recently acquired three parcels in the 4th Street area in the city block between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues including two old apartment buildings and a third building that for decades housed the old Griffin’s Market.
A plan was formulated to clear the former buildings from the newly acquired parcels and create another municipal parking lot at 4th Street roughly behind City Hall. There was already a parking lot on the lot fronting Baltimore Ave.
However, when the old buildings were torn down, a rather unique and large tree in roughly the center of the parking lot became a talking point.
The tree, referred to by many as a “cigar tree,” had been relatively obscured by the buildings around it and had not been truly appreciated until the old buildings had been cleared from the lots. It’s uncertain just how old the tree is, although archived aerial photos of the downtown area show its presence dating back at least as far as 1966.
Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins said the original plans called for completely clearing the entire parcels in the 4th Street area, but when the size and age of the tree was revealed after the old buildings were bulldozed, town officials set out on a plan to save it.
“We decided to save the tree,” Adkins said this week. “It’s got a lot of character and its canopy is so unique. We pulled the aerial photographs of the site as far back as 1966 and it was there at least as early as that and probably much longer. I’ve been led to believe it’s called a cigar tree.”
Adkins said saving the tree did not require a major revision of the plans for the municipal parking lot and actually provided some benefit.
“It appeared that it would line up perfectly with the planned landscape dividers in the parking lot,” he said. “Because it has such a wide trunk at the base and because it has such a vast root system, we had to enlarge the landscaped area around its base. As a result, the only modification to the parking lot plan was we put in a few motorcycle parking spots instead of full vehicle spots. In hindsight, we really needed a couple of motorcycle spots there anyway because most of our municipal lots have some and this one didn’t.”
With the historic tree firmly in place for future generations, a decision was made to install some floodlights at its base to accentuate its uniqueness and essentially create a piece of natural art in the downtown area not far from City Hall.