11/01/06 — An historic tree grows in city park

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An historic tree grows in city park

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 1, 2006 1:45 PM

Years ago, registered forester Hugh Tate took a drive through downtown Goldsboro on a winter day.

As he passed by Stoney Creek Park, he noticed something the summer leaves had been hiding, standing powerful along the creek's bank -- something big.

When he pulled his car to the side of the road and braved the cold to get a closer look, he said he never imagined he would end up standing at the foot of the biggest Spanish oak in the state.

"I spotted it from Ash Street," Tate said. "In the wintertime, it can easily be seen. Foresters have an eye for that kind of thing. It didn't have the usual look of trees you would be used to seeing, so I went down there and measured it."

Some of those measurements are now on record with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources -- a circumference of 211 inches, 105 feet in height. Goldsboro's oak was recognized in August 2005 as a "champion" on the state Register of Big Trees.

"At this point in time, it's the largest that's been discovered in the state," Tate said. "It definitely is a tree to be proud of. It sure is."

A tree like that is not found every day, he added. In fact, there are not many Spanish oaks in the state, big or small.

"It is a rather rare species of tree that is not often found in these parts," Tate said. "But it sure is beautiful."

There is no telling how a tree like that came to grow in Stoney Creek Park, he continued.

"A Spanish oak is a cross between Southern Red oak and some other oak and that just doesn't occur very often," Tate said. "It's more or less a hybrid species. Someone put it there or, by some freak of nature, two trees crossed paths and produced it."

However it happened, it was probably more than a century ago, he added.

"We don't have any evidence of how old it is but I would estimate it's about 120 years old," Tate said. "It's so large. A tree doesn't grow very much in a year."

Stoney Creek Park Alliance members, too, recently found out about the champion tree. They said they hope it will be a source of pride in the community and might even give potential project supporters another reason to help revamp the property.

Tate said it will certainly accomplish the first.

"That tree is something we should all be proud of," he said.

Maybe it's the way the sunlight bounces off the leaves on a fall morning or the sheer power you sense in it when you stand at the foot that makes it so wonderful, Tate added.

"I don't know what it is about it," he said. "But I know it sure is one beautiful tree."