TAVARES — Next time you drive down County Road 44A, located southeast of the City of Umatilla, look off the side of the roadway for the 40-foot tall Southern Magnolia that was designated by the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday as a Lake County Heritage Tree.
The landscaping ordinance, which the County approved in December 2009, allows for the designation of historic, heritage or specimen trees. The purpose is to acknowledge the existence of trees that: portray a historical association to Lake County (historical trees); or are rare due to factors such as age, size or type (specimen or heritage trees).
Mary Gerding’s Southern Magnolia is the first tree in Lake County to receive one of these designations. The tree with a trunk caliper in excess of 40 inches was presumed to have been planted by her great grandfather around 1910.
“It’s a very special tree that I wanted to be protected from future development,” she said. “It was my mother’s pride and joy. She stood down at the road when they were paving it and she stood in front of caterpillars saying you’re getting too close to the tree.”
As part of the designation, a sign will placed near the tree and a resolution states the County will endeavor to preserve the land on the County Road 44A right-of-way near the tree.
“When I saw the tree for the first time I was in awe by it,” said David Hansen, Lake County’s Public Lands Program Manager, who helped in the process by asking the Public Lands Acquisition Subcommittee to support the designation of the tree as a Lake County Heritage Tree.
For more information about the designation of historic, heritage or specimen trees in Lake County, call Grant Wenrick, Landscape Architect of the Lake County Department of Growth Management, Planning & Community Design Division, at (352) 343-9739 ext. 5832 or e-mail email@example.com.