The future of Sandy Hook’s iconic Christmas tree will be the topic of discussion Thursday evening, May 9, as the Newtown Forest Association (NFA) board members determine an appropriate time to take it down, said NFA President Bob Eckenrode.
Caught in the middle of a debate, the evergreen at The Glen, an NFA property beside Sabrina Style, may or may not come down this year prior to the traditional December holiday celebration. While some residents and officials push to keep the tree in place — a focal point of the Sandy Hook memorial sites following 12/14 — others believe in a fresh start.
In past months the NFA had announced plans to revamp the Glen, coinciding with a downtown streetscape project that is under way to bring new curbing and sidewalks through the center and The Glen. Plans included removing the overgrown fir, which has several more years left “before it starts to decline,” Mr Eckenrode said.
In a letter she wrote to The Bee dated May 1, Kathleen Barton said, “Sometimes a tree is more than a tree.” She said the Sandy Hook tree is a “powerful symbol of our community ... a gathering place in times of joy … and great sorrow.” Although she understands that the tree may “only have a few years left,” and that a replacement tree is planned, she does not want to see it go. “Not now,” she wrote.
Lighting that specific tree this year is important to her. Since this will be the first tree lighting “since the tragedy,” Ms Barton stressed that “traditions are important.” She feels that losing the tree that has for years been the center of holiday celebrations will “add to our loss.”
Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP) President Mike Burton feels that removing the tree sooner, rather than later and replacing it across the street on town property is favorable to waiting — the opposite of his original position roughly a year ago. “I came full circle,” he said. When the NFA first mentioned taking down the tree, he said, “Many people including me were not comfortable with the idea; it’s such a part of Sandy Hook.”
But Mr Burton considered the big picture: revitalizing the intersection and allowing for a substantial new tree on the opposite corner. “We were comfortable with that idea, we felt an obligation to plan for the future.” He said, “The existing tree has limited life span and this would be long-term solution.”
Sandy Hook Center is currently disrupted by construction, which could be completed this season. To have the NFA property redone at the same time “is preferable,” he said. Aware of different points of view, Mr Burton said “I think we need to look long term.”