A massive ficus tree that has shaded a park enjoyed by generations of Fort Meyer residents for over a century has officially tied the knot.
Karen Cooper and Dana Foglesong married the tree in a ceremony on March 24 featuring flowers, food, music, and the support and blessing of some 80 cheering community supporters. The unusual nuptials came as the giant ficus, a landmark fixture along the city's waterfront, is facing an uncertain future.
In December, the Fort Meyer Public Works Department approved the removal of the tree after a local developer raised concern that a portion of its 8,000-foot canopy was extending from its rooted position in Snell Family Park and over a neighboring, empty lot. Discussions by the city’s Beautification Advisory Board recommended spending $13,000 to cut down the tree and replace it with a smaller species.
Once some local residents caught wind of the plans, they were horrified.
"It’s the most beautiful tree in Fort Myers in my view," denizen John Mollard told the News-Press in February. "Every time my grandchildren are here we take pictures with it … All our neighbors have been up in arms."
While those against the decision to remove the tree protested with signs and vocal opposition at meetings, Cooper decided to draw her inspiration from women in Mexico protesting deforestation by marrying trees.
"The tree is the focal point of a very sweet neighborhood park, and without it, the park would just be a vacant lot," she told ABC News. "People get married at this park ... but I married the tree."
Knowing full well that the ceremony was more tongue-in-cheek than till death do we part, Cooper added that the true purpose was to both honor the tree's value to the community and inspire others to speak out against its removal.
"The ceremony was meant to encourage residents of the subdivision to come to city hall on Tuesday to show support for saving the tree," she said.
That meeting of the Beautification Advisory Board, slated for this afternoon, should finally resolve the tree's future. A recent report by an ISA Certified Arborist found the ficus to be strong and healthy. In what will likely please both the developer and park supporters, it also stated that any pruning of infringing branches or roots on the neighboring lot would not "threaten the health of the tree."
Speaking with the News-Press, Cooper said that anything other than living happily ever after with her newly betrothed will be heartbreaking.
"If they cut down this tree, I'm going to be a widow."