Family devastated by cutting down of 100-year-old elm tree

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A New Jersey family says that they are devastated to hear that an old elm tree that was growing in front of their own home has been cut down.

It has been 20 years since the elm tree was saved as part of a compromise between homeowner Lawrence “Buzzy” Raczkiewicz and Ocean Township officials.

Back in 1999 town officials wanted to widen Hope Road and would have to cut down the tree that was growing on the easement along Raczkiewicz’s property. But Raczkiewicz fought with the town over the tree because it was the only thing left from the dairy farm that his grandparents owned before they sold it as Ocean Township went from rural to suburban.

Raczkiewicz convinced the town to keep the tree.

“He was on his death bed. And he fought tooth and nail to save it. It's got to be over 100 years old,” says Raczkiewicz’s daughter Lori Henderson.

Raczkiewicz died a few years later and the family assumed that the tree would be safe for the rest of its life. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Raczkiewicz’s nephew David lives two doors down from the tree. He says that he was woken up by the sound of chainsaws and saw that the tree was being taken down limb by limb. David says that he tried to call the town to work something out, but that no one called him back.

The family says that seeing the tree cut down was like seeing their memories destroyed.

The current owner of the home says that there wasn’t anything that she could do. The tree is on the easement and it is the town’s final decision. The tree was cut down so that a new sidewalk could be built in its place. The traffic in the area is busy and there have been a few pedestrians hit by cars.

The family says that they understand why a sidewalk needs to be there, but they say that they wish there could have been some way to save the tree.

David was able to get a piece of lumber from the tree that he says he plans to make some keepsakes from. He also was able to get a cutting from the tree that he says that he will put into water in the hopes of seeing if he can grow a new tree.

News 12 New Jersey spoke with the Ocean Township administrator who said that he felt horrible about the situation and was unaware of the tree’s significance. He says that he will go “above and beyond to mitigate,” including planting new trees in the area.

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