Norris meeting could decide fate of historic elm in city Commons

One of the most recognizable and beloved landmarks in the city of Norris – the giant elm tree in the Commons area downtown – is in danger of collapsing.

But the city has a plan that might keep it safe and viable for at least the next five years.

City Manager Scott Hackler has called a special meeting of the Norris Tree Commission for 5:30 p.m. Thursday (June 10) to consider the plan, which would cost the city $5,850 for trimming, new steel support cables and other work on the tree, as well as five years of inspections and any necessary maintenance.

The tree dates to the founding of Norris in 1934, and has been a prominent element in the commons area since. It’s even listed as an historic tree within the state on the website of the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council (tufc.com/project/commons-elm/), which says:

“Ulmus Americana: Within the English Commons of the city of Norris stands this magnificent American elm. Planted by the Tennessee Valley Authority.”

The agenda items for the Thursday meeting are:

• The history of the elm tree’s maintenance.

• The maintenance proposal.

• And the “Path Forward.”

According to the proposal from Cortese Tree Specialists of Knoxville:

• Trimming on the tree, at a cost of $3,375, would achieve “crown reduction [and] pruning of entire tree to reduce weight and foliage by about one-third; [pruning out] dead and broken branches.

• $1,500 for cleanup and removal of all debris from the pruning of the tree.

• $975 to remove broken support cables and install two new cables.

Additionally, the Cortese arborist would “make annual inspections to monitor status of the cables and stability of the tree for the next five years.”

Hackler said late last week that the tree eventually will have to be removed.

“I hope that when that happens, we can offer pieces of the tree to people who want them as keepsakes,” the city manager said.