Iconic oak trees in downtown Ocala could be removed

Trees are slowly dying due to lack of space, city planner says

Leaders in Ocala are debating whether to remove large oak trees from the downtown area.

OCALA, Fla. – Although they’ve grown with the city, Ocala city leaders are looking into the possibility of removing some notable oak trees from the downtown square.

The oak trees have been around for decades and are a popular element of the city's downtown holiday decorations.

Peter Lee, Ocala planning director, said the oak trees have grown too big for the square and now, they're slowly dying because their roots have nowhere to go, especially the large one to the west of the gazebo.

“It is really locked in by asphalt,” he said. “Its natural root zone is probably diminished by 80 percent, which is a big part of why the tree is stressed.”

Recently, city leaders discussed what do to about the trees, whether it’s replacing them or seeing if they can be repaired. Presentation slides show how the trees are losing their canopy and are continuing to deteriorate at an accelerated rate.

“They can’t get enough nutrients,” Lee said. “They could stay for years, but they become more dangerous, bigger and bigger branches and beams fall out of the trees.”

For Kim McClain of Ocala, the oak trees and their decorations are intertwined with downtown.

“They’re a staple of downtown, just like the gazebo and some of the businesses,” she said. “Without these trees, this wouldn’t be the square.”

The city planner told News 6 the next step is to bring in experts to take a closer look at the trees to see what the options are going forward.

About the Author:

It has been an absolute pleasure for Clay LePard living and working in Orlando since he joined News 6 in July 2017. Previously, Clay worked at WNEP TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he brought viewers along to witness everything from unprecedented access to the Tobyhanna Army Depot to an interview with convicted double-murderer Hugo Selenski.