VALPARAISO | A former downtown holiday tree is about to be given the holiday touch again.
The city's Redevelopment Commission agreed last week to pay to move a 20-foot spruce from Forest Park to the center of the city's newest roundabout at the five-points intersection of North Calumet Avenue, Roosevelt Road and Vale Park Road.
Steve Martinson, a parks horticulturist, said the tree was one of the live trees placed in whiskey barrel planters in the downtown back in the 1980s and decorated for the Christmas holiday season. Those that survived the experience were planted in the parks.
Forest Park has several, but one of them is in danger of being overcrowded because it is up against the woods near the picnic pavilion west of Ogden Gardens. Martinson said the tree also is in the way of a path leading to the forest restoration project.
"We were going to have to cut it down, but then I heard the city was thinking of putting a spruce in the middle of the roundabout," he said. "I thought, 'Why not?' It's still an idea at this point. It would be free, except for the cost to move it, and we would have that expense anyway."
Rob Szrom, of Lakeshore Landscaping, told the commission that normally it is not a good idea to dig up and move such a big tree because of the root damage. However, this tree already was transplanted, so the roots aren't as widely spread, and the soil around it is more suited for digging it up.
Szrom said it would cost about $3,000 to move it to the roundabout and stake it up, which would be about half the cost of buying a new tree that size. The city expects the roundabout to be completed and open to traffic by mid-November. If the weather is dry enough to get equipment in to the tree to remove it, the city hopes to complete the move about that time.
Stuart Summers, the commission's executive director, said the project still has to be approved by Mayor Jon Costas and City Administrator Bill Oeding. That's not expected to be a problem, so Summers is getting quotes for having the tree decorated for the holidays.
At some point in late November, the commission hopes to have a ceremony to officially open the roundabout and highlight the event with a tree lighting.