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Tautphaus Park “picture tree” to be removed

The familiar photo backdrop commonly known as “the picture tree” on Rogers and Fountain Drive in Tautphaus Park will soon be changing.

Recent storm damage and age-related disease have weakened the aging willow tree.

The Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Department has worked with the city’s shade tree committee to make plans to remove the tree, which has become increasingly unhealthy.

“We’ve been pruning and treating this tree for several years, trying to prolong its life, but it has become a real public safety hazard and the time has come for us to remove it,” said Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Director PJ Holmes. “The good thing is that we’ve planned for this and years ago we took a cutting from the tree and planted it nearby. So while a large portion of the old, familiar tree will be taken out, we do have a new, genetically identical tree growing nearby to take its place.”

In 1970, the tree, which is estimated to be more than 80 years old, split. A portion of the downed trunk spans a gap between the unhealthy portion and another large trunk of the tree. The downed trunk and the adjacent, healthier, trunk will not be removed at this time.

Storms over the last few years have caused large portions of the tree to break off. In addition, rot in the main trunk has caused it to become increasingly unstable and unhealthy. The city, working with its arborist and the shade tree committee, has used extensive pruning and pest control to help prolong the life of the tree, but the increasing rot has made removal necessary.

“Trees are an important part of our city. They make it more beautiful, cleaner and add to our quality of life,” said Holm. “We have a very healthy program to monitor and maintain our trees, and sometimes we need to remove them as part of the normal cycle of life. Although it’s always sad to remove one of our big, old trees, we planned for this and have a new tree already planted and growing to take its place. We hope it will become as iconic as its predecessor.”

Work to remove the tree will begin within the next couple of weeks.

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