Massive trees in Sebastian could be ‘champions’ if size is right

SEBASTIAN – So far, two Sebastian homeowners have asked the city’s Natural Resources Board to take a look at their trees to determine if they are “Champions.”

The homeowners – one with a massive Live Oak, the other with a monster Laurel Oak – will find out later this year if they can claim Champion status once the board comes out to measure them.

“It keeps getting larger and larger,” resident Kenneth Lenoff said of his Live Oak. “It keeps growing.”

Sebastian’s Champion Tree Award Program is designed to recognize the city’s trees – Sebastian has been designated a “Tree City” for the last decade.

Margie Reynolds, the city’s resident tree expert, said the program serves as a way to educate homeowners on their trees and their significance to the city.

“I usually find (Champion specimens) when I’m doing inspections,” Reynolds said, explaining that many times residents contact the city prior to cutting down the trees. Before they can do that, Reynolds inspects the tree and the property to be sure that the removal would not violate city code.

She said that it is typically at that point when she determines that a tree could very well be a Champion – a large, healthy specimen of that particular species. Reynolds then tells the homeowners about the program.

While that might be the way it usually goes, both applicants this year reached out to her – not the other way around.

Lenoff said that he notified the city about his Live Oak a year or so ago, but no one came out to take a look. He tried again this year, and now the Natural Resources Board will inspect the tree in early February.

He should find out by April whether or not his Live Oak is the largest known Live Oak in the city.

“It’s been here a long time,” Lenoff said of the tree.

He said that he heard about the Champion Tree Award Program through the Sebastian Garden Club.

The Live Oak took a big hit in 2005 when Hurricane Jeanne passed through, Lenoff said. The tree survived, despite losing one-third of its canopy and the trunk sustaining a split.

Lenoff used cables and a steel post to reinforce the trunk.

Despite the damage, the tree continues to thrive and boasts a trunk that is between five and six feet in diameter with some limbs as thick at one to three feet in diameter, he said.

Donna Nibbs, another Sebastian resident, applied for the Champion Tree Award because of her Laurel Oak.

The tree towers over her home, dwarfing much of the other foliage around it.

Trees that are nominated for Champion status are measured and studied, resulting in a score based on a prescribed matrix. In order for either of the two contenders to be deemed the Champion for that species, it has to exceed the point score for the previously named Champion.

There is no guarantee that either tree will be its specie’s Champion.

The Natural Resources Board will continue to take nominations for the award through Jan. 31. Anyone with a potential Champion can call board member Jane Schnee at (772) 589-3201.

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