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Landmark tree falls in Poland Forest

POLAND — “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

For ages, people have pondered this quote by Irish philosopher George Berkeley.

Poland resident Lauren Schroeder, who also is president of nonprofit Friends of the Poland Municipal Forest, has the answer.

As he was walking around the woods the morning of Jan. 10, he heard a boom at about 8:30 a.m.

“I looked around and saw the tree had fallen. It had to be that,” Schroeder said.

Located near the Upper McKinley and Butler trails, the gargantuan white oak was affectionately known as the Granger Oak Tree.

Growth rings revealed that the fallen tree was more than 400 years old, according to the Friends of the Poland Municipal Forest.

Named for the Poland resident Karl Granger, who would ride his horse Rocky through the forest, the Granger tree contained 40 tons of dry wood, Schroeder said.

Rocky the horse died in 1969 and was laid to rest under the Granger tree. His grave is marked by a glacial erratic boulder. Such bounders were transported great distances by a glacier, and then left behind after the glacier melted.

Multiple factors may have led to the Granger Oak’s tumble, the Friends group believes.

In 1950, two pathways, the Upper McKinley and Butler trails, were constructed by East Ohio Gas Co.. The routes, measuring about 24 feet wide with ditches on either side, required nearby trees to be removed on the east side of the Granger Oak.

Rocky, too, may have been a factor.

The digging of Rocky’s grave added more stress to the delicate tree, which was also unbalanced as surrounding canopy trees were removed through the years.

Based on the estimated age of the Granger Oak, it can be speculated the tree existed around the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, according to the Friends.

While the Granger Oak provided shade and oxygen, it will now take on a new role in the forest.

As the tree decomposes, it will not be chopped, but rather kept intact in its final resting place where it can be a source of nutrients for animals, fungi and insects.

Schroeder said that the Friends group envisions a “nature first” forest management philosophy, which is the least amount of development keeping the forest as natural as possible.

Established in 1916 as the Poland Community Forest then created by an ordinance in 1938, the Poland Municipal Forest consists of 265 acres.

Friends of the Poland Municipal Forest began in the mid-1970s, Schroeder said, as a way to protect the land from developing on the west end of the forest.

Over time, the group has evolved into a nonprofit that meets twice a year, sponsoring talks about the ecosystem and history of the forest.

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