A tree in Alexandria that predated that American Revolution by a century has been chopped down in an incident officials said yesterday could have been prevented if proper procedures had been followed.
"This is terrible, awful. That tree was a living witness to the American Revolution," said Lois Hunt, a conservationist who headed a bicentennial commission that identified 13 historic trees known to have been alive in 1976.
According to Hunt, the tree, an American linden, was the second oldest known tree in 230-year old city and had been certified by a federal agency as being approximately 300 years old.
"I had no idea it was an historic tree," said Louise Ansberry Rahardja, owner of the property at 2915 King St., where the tree stood 100 feet tall with branches that arched out over the sidewalk and the road.
"It was a rotten tree, one of the branches fell down on the sidewalk recently. I was concerned that the entire tree would fall donw and hurt someone," she said.
Last week Rahardje had the tree cut down.
Hunt said yesterday she was informed on Sunday by former city council candidates Marian Van Landingham that the once-stately tree now lay in sections on the front lawn of the property, located half a mile from T.C. Williams High School.
"That tree was protected by the city's tree ordinance, which means that it cannot be cut down without a special permit, and that the city attorney must place a notice in the land records of the property stating that the tree is protected," Hunt said yesterday.
City arberist Greg Kernan, who yesterday examined the chunks of the tree trunk resting on Rahardja's front lawn, said "The trunk was in good condition although some of the upper branches were rotten. It could have been saved."
Kernan said he examined the city land records of the property, but did not find any notice ofthe tree's protected status.
Assistant City Attorney Nolan E. Dawkins said yesterday he is investigating the matter. The destruction of protected trees is a misdemeanor.
Two of the 13 trees certified as having existed at the time of the American Revolution have been destroyed by natural causes. Hunt said. More than 100 other trees are protected because they are "specimens of unique types," she said. CAPTION: Picture, Remains of 300-year-old American linden lie in front of an Alexandria home whose owner said she did not know it was protected by a city ordinance and a plaque. By Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post