Was tree destroyed today a piece of Gympie history?
WAS the tree cut down today in Gympie a piece of history or an intruding pest given undeserved sentimentality?
Two very different stories have emerged after the Chinese elm on the Murray Views site was destroyed.
Neighbour Wesley Dodt told the Gympie Times the tree was about 70 years old, and was planted when the Columbia Hotel stood on the site before it burned down in 1961.
"It's a beautiful old tree," Mr Dodt said.
"It's a bit of history... It's always been there."
He said he grew up around the tree.
"That was 20 years ago," he said.
But Murray Views general manager Evan McDonald said the tree was actually about 12 years old, a declared pest and a safety hazard.
He said the tree, commonly known as a Chinese elm or Chinese celtis (latin name Celtis sinensis), had to be removed.
"It's a legal requirement. I have no choice," Mr McDonald said.
"I've checked with council, I've checked with the Department of Natural Resources.
"We're harbouring a criminal."
The site was formerly the Columbia Hotel, which burned to the ground on August 27, 1961.
Gympie historian Mal Dodt, who runs a local history Facebook page, showed the Gympie Times a photo taken as the hotel smouldered.
The tree doesn't yet exist in the photo - meaning the tree couldn't be any more than 55 years old.
Another image taken decades later shows the Murray Views building with the mature tree, but this photograph's date is unknown.
Mr McDonald said parts of the tree were beginning to fail, putting his staff and visitors in danger.
"There were several branches that were about to let go at any time," he said.
"This branch here for example, actually had a crack where you could put your hand in it.
"We actually have all the trucks and dispatch turning up here, and this branch was right over that point."
He said the tree's rapid growth meant people believed it was older than it was.
"We've got staff who've been here since it was small, and that's one of the features of the Chinese elm... it grows very prolifically," he said.
While he's sorry to see the tree destroyed, he said he had to comply with workplace health and safety requirements.
"Yes, it's very, very sad to see it go, but we've reached a point where it's unsafe for our staff," he said.
"People love them because of the shade.
"We did, and then we discovered in actual fact it's this Chinese elm."
The Gympie Times has contacted Gympie Regional Council to clear up questions over the tree's age.
More information about the Chinese celtis is available on this Queensland Government page.