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Stately Oaks saved from threatening trees

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Stately Oaks Plantation is no longer being endangered by three ailing trees. A Jonesboro tree-removal company reduced its price nearly in half to trim two oak trees, and remove a dead pine tree.

Tree-cutting crews were at Stately Oaks recently to do the work. Officials from Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., which operates Stately Oaks as a museum, had feared that the trees might damage the main plantation house, a nearby school house and Indian village, if they fell.

Pro Tree Services Owner Gregg Buice had originally told the organization's president, Barbara Emert, the oak trees could be trimmed, and the dead pine tree removed, at a cost of $1,250. Historical Jonesboro was seeking donations to help pay for the work.

Buice said he reduced the price to $750 late last week, after Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox intervened on Historical Jonesboro's behalf. The trees were trimmed and cut Friday.

"Luther Maddox just asked if there was any way I could reduce the price, and I was glad to do so," Buice said. His company performs tree trimming and removal services for the city. "The city has always been good to my company ... Also, a lot of those people over there [at Stately Oaks] volunteer a lot of their time to keep that place running, so I wanted to do something for them."

The removal of the trees relieves Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., of what had been an area of high concern for its members. When Emert announced that the organization was seeking donations to deal with the trees last month, she expressed a concern that one or both of the oak trees, as well as the pine tree, could fall over in a strong wind, and injure visitors or volunteers.

Once Buice offered to lower the price, Emert said she could not pass up the opportunity. "Nothing is touching the house, and we feel very secure now," she said. "We're very pleased with the job they did."

Maddox said he was glad Buice was able to reduce his price. Jonesboro's mayor said the city would lose "one of its main attractions, and a big part of our history," if a tree fell on Stately Oaks and destroyed the plantation house. "It's good to have a local business that is willing to help out when asked," Maddox said.

Buice said approximately 2,000 pounds of limbs were removed from a Red Oak tree that is leaning over the plantation's main house. Many of the limbs that were growing toward the bottom of that tree were disease-infested and needed to be removed, he said. He also estimated the tree was approximately 85 years old.

He said removing the limbs will help reduce the chances of the tree falling for two reasons. On the one hand, he said, the decreased number of limbs means the tree will catch less wind. On the other hand, it will also reduce the weight on the tree, although the tree will always be leaning over the house, he said.

It took Buice's crew a little over two hours to trim the oak trees, and cut down the pine tree, according to Emert. As the tree crew was finishing up its work on Friday, Pro Tree Services Foreman Randy Jones said the trees are now "twice as safe."

Historical Jonesboro was soliciting donations to help with the removal of the trees, because it did not have enough money to pay for even trimming the trees. "Stately Oaks is like the rest of us, in that they've got the shorts, too," Maddox said. "We're all going through the economic shorts right now."

Now that the oak trees have been trimmed, and the pine tree removed at a lower cost, Historical Jonesboro is still finding that it needs to do some fund-raising to offset the costs. The organization had to dig into its own pockets to cover much of the cost.

Historical Jonesboro received a $250 donation from Pope-Dickson & Son Funeral Home to deal with the trees, but the organization had to take the remaining $500 out of its general operating fund, Emert said. The fund is designed to cover general operating costs, such as utility bills, and paying the salaries for office staff, she said.

"If anyone wants to make a donation to help offset the costs, it would be greatly appreciated," she said. "We usually run pretty close [financially], like most operating, non-profit organizations. Any unexpected expenses really hurt, and we don't have a back-up. Somehow, that's money we'll have to come up with."