Serving as mayor of Highland Park isn’t prestigious enough to protect Margo Goodwin from taking a ribbing from a teenage relative.
“My grandson said everyone hated me for taking the tree down,” the mayor told Town Council members in December. “What did they think should happen, wait until it fell down and killed somebody?”
However residents feel about the mayor or the loss of the 150-plus-year-old Big Pecan that predated the town and served as a symbol of its resilience, a large crowd turned out in the mild weather for the first tree lighting without the landmark monarch.
Among those attending were members of the Cole family, whose ancestor Joseph Cole was credited with saving the sapling that would become the Big Pecan tree because he had seen too much death while serving in the Civil War.
A tree grafted from Cole’s tree at the intersection of Armstrong Parkway and Preston Road and planted nearby in 1951 served for the 2019 lighting celebration.
Town leaders referred to it as the “sister tree” and “new tree” leading up to the ceremony – names that didn’t fit.
“That tree is no baby. Well, it’s younger than I am.” -Mayor Margo Goodwin
The Town Council discussed options such as the Nobel Pecan, Cole Tree, or Civitan Tree for the Town North Civitan Club, which donated the tree.
Landmark Tree, suggested by Lt. Lance Koppa, the community relations/public information officer for the town and its Department of Public Safety, won consensus.
“We’ll just refer to the tree as the Landmark Tree,” Goodwin said. “It sure beats ‘sister tree.’”
“Or grafted tree,” Mayor Pro Tem John McKnight added.
The mayor talked about the future of the Landmark Tree during the lighting ceremony on Dec. 5.
“It’s not as big as the one we had to take down, but then it’s just half the age, too, so we’re looking for great things out of this tree in the future, and we hope that we can celebrate with it for another 100 years,” she said.
Still, how long that tree serves at lighting ceremonies could remain a matter of debate.
Town Council members David Dowler and Eric Gambrell voiced interest in exploring the possibility of finding and transplanting another massive tree where the Big Pecan once stood.
Gambrell asked his council colleagues, “Why would we not talk about putting a new tree there?”
The plan has been to let the town get accustomed to the tree’s absence before considering options, which also could include creating a garden or park where the monarch once stood.
“To me, it’s somewhat of an experiment to see how wonderful it is when we light it up on Thursday,” Dowler said of the Landmark Tree.
By all accounts, it looked splendid lit up with 5,000 lights. But was that wonderful enough?
That’s still for town leaders to decide.