Dead tree a totem to past, beacon of hope for future

RYAN MAYE HANDY Updated: January 22, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 22, 2013

There are a few survivors on Linger Way — a short, dead-end street in Mountain Shadows nearly wiped clean by the Waldo Canyon fire in June. Since then, those survivors, a cluster of four homes that ring a cul-de-sac, have lost something else: A 25-foot pine tree.

The brittle tree stands in its own island in the middle of the cul-de-sac, facing the nearly-empty stretch of Linger Way to the southwest. The heat from the blaze that consumed 19 homes on Linger Way radiated on the tree; it wasn’t until months later that the tree succumbed and died.

For Aaron and Jolene Butler, whose house survived, the tree has become a sort of totem. It’s a reminder of the June 26 firestorm that engulfted the neighborhood, but it is also a chance for the Butlers and their neighbors to seize a bit of hope, and plant a new tree. But, they want to know, is the Linger Way tree really theirs?

By all accounts the towering, beautiful pine was planted in the early 1990s, when developers stuck a five-foot sapling in the cul-de-sac’s earth-island.

“It’s not many people put a tree in the middle of the cul-de-sac,” said Aaron Butler.

The Butlers, at 5760 Linger Way, are relative new comers to the small neighborhood — the tree was full-grown before their arrival. But Keith Williamson, at 5705, told them the tree was put in the year he moved there, in 1993, El Paso County Assessor’s Office records show. Together, the neighbors have weighed their options — for instance, if they tree is theirs, they’ll replant it themselves.

“We band together. We’ll go buy a new tree,” Butler said.

But more than just an artifact of devastation or a community project, for Bulter, the Linger Way tree represents a chance to involve the city of Colorado Springs more in the recovery of Mountain Shadows, where at least 346 homes were destroyed.

Butler appealed to the non-profit recovery group, Colorado Springs Together, for help replacing the tree, thinking that some of the thousands donated to help those affected by the fire might be available.

“I thought I would take this opportunity to point out a place where some of this money could be spent on a project that would directly impact fire victims,” he wrote. “At least those of us on Linger Way.”

He didn’t hear back, but the tree, it turns out, sits on city public-right-of-way property, said Colorado Springs City Forester Paul Smith on Tuesday. Come April, it will be one of many singed trees across Mountain Shadows that the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department plans to replant, Smith added.

“We’ve got other situations like it,” Smith said. “Our arbor day project this year is going to be in Mountain Shadows neighborhood.”

On April 27th, the parks department will hit the streets, trails and some open spaces in and around Mountain Shadows to restore some of the trees beloved by residents.

So the Butler’s tree will linger a bit longer, maybe to watch some new homes rise and the neighborhood spring back to its feet.

Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261

Twitter @ryanmhandy

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