The Senator in its better days.
RIP The Senator
The Senator, a 3500-year old bald cypress ranked as the fifth oldest tree in the world, was killed January 16, 2012, by an arsonist at Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida.
This is just as I predicted weeks ago, when others theorized a deadly lightning strike was the cause at a time when there was no lightning. Even more asinine was the suggestion that spontaneous combustion caused the tree to burn itself up. This was supposed to have happened because the tree’s wind-driven branches rubbed against it furiously and made it go poof!.
The Senator died a stupid death. It turns out the fire was accidental, started by a 26-year old woman who set fire to twigs and branches around the tree to better see the drugs she was taking.
Arsonist took photos of burning tree
Once the tree caught on fire, she used her cell phone to take photos of it. She did not bother to call the fire department or take any steps to end the devastation she started. Police were leisurely in arresting the meth head. Although they received a tip the day after the fire, they did not arrest her until February 28, more than a month later.
How much did the judicial system value The Senator? Not much. Bail for the arsonist was only $5,950. The low bail amount reflects how much Seminole County officials traditionally have respected the importance of the nation’s largest bald cypress tree and its nearby companion, the 2,000-year old Lady Liberty.
Seminole County officials now spend money to protect—a stump?
Protecting the tree while still alive might have been a better idea.
The Senator gets bigger fence after being set afire
The Senator and Lady Liberty’s home in Big Tree Park is not a desirable location. Years ago Big Tree Park turned into a notorious after-dark location where drug use and prostitution were common activities. Not only was Big Tree Park allowed to turn into a seedy nighttime spot, Seminole County officials never installed lights or security cameras. There was not a single nightly patrol car to make the rounds at Big Tree Park.
The only protection afforded The Senator was a metal fence around its base. . . an obviously useless safeguard.
In a classic case of too little too late, Seminole County commissioners have decided to spend $29,000 to build an 8-foot fence around The Senator’s stump and another around Lady Liberty before she becomes someone’s demolition project.
Still no park lights or security cameras. As for police patrols, that remains to be seen.
Live vs inanimate objects
Indifference by officials compounded by incompetence are the real culprits for killing The Senator. The towering tree had stood for 3,500 years. Like other equally ancient monuments–the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge–it was expected always to remain.
It never seemed to occur to those in charge that living monuments require more care and protection than those made of rock. The Senator was disregarded and left on its own in a once pleasant county park that was allowed to go to ruin. That neglect is not only embarrassing, it is unfathomable.