7 On Your Side: Historic New York Christmas tree again on chopping block

PAWLING, New York (WABC) -- Seven years ago, 7 On Your Side helped save a towering tree in a New York town from being torn down. Now, it's being targeted again.

For more than 30 years, the soaring Spruce tree has stood next to the train tracks in the Dutchess County town of Pawling, and each year, it takes center stage for "Decemberfest."

But during the tree lighting last month, village residents were told to say goodbye to the 45-foot tall tree. According to Pawling's Chamber of Commerce, the tree is dead, rotting and dangerous.

This isn't the first time the town has tried to cut down the tree, and seven years ago, the mayor wanted it gone to make way for public toilets. But townsfolk and advocates rallied to save the tree.

Jacob Voudren was 10 year old when he appeared in our 7 On Your Side broadcast, and the fifth grader was part of the group that spoke to Eyewitness News .

Fast forward to 2020, and Jake is now a high school senior who once again finds himself fighting to save the tree.

"Unless the tree was very sick, it would be respected for the heritage it has in this town," he said.

Pawling Mayor Robert Liffland said the trees branches cannot hold lights, and other town officials also want the tree gone.

"I just want it cut down, absolutely," town Trustee Earl Slocum said. "It's out-lived its use and not in good shape, I think. It needs to go. It's not healthy, that's for sure."
Community members and local business owners raised money this year and decorated the tree themselves, after learning there were no plans to light the spruce. The GoFundMe page was fully funded, raising more than $9,635.

A professional arborist hired to inspect the tree concluded that the Spruce is perfectly healthy, had no rot, and may live 100 years. He estimated the tree is between 30 to 40 years old, a toddler in tree years, and he recommended pruning and fertilization.

But Slocum, a former Pawling mayor himself, said he planted the tree back when he was in office and didn't care what the arborist had to say.

Mayor Liffland said he will listen to opinions on both sides and get a second opinion from another arborist before taking action.

There is a Village of Pawling Board Meeting Tuesday, January 21, at Village Hall at 9 Memorial from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
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Seven years ago, 7 On Your Side helped save a towering tree in a New York town from being torn down. Now, it's being targeted again.


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