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Troy tree recognized as state champ in Big Tree Hunt

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published December 3, 2019

 This massive dawn redwood stands in the front yard of Bill and Sarah Williams’ home.

This massive dawn redwood stands in the front yard of Bill and Sarah Williams’ home.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Bill and Sarah Williams and Brayden, 11, a sixth grader at Smith Middle School, and Aurora, 9, a fourth grader at Martell Elementary School, stand by their award-winning dawn redwood.

Bill and Sarah Williams and Brayden, 11, a sixth grader at Smith Middle School, and Aurora, 9, a fourth grader at Martell Elementary School, stand by their award-winning dawn redwood.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 The dawn redwood tree produces round pine cones and fine, feathery leaves.

The dawn redwood tree produces round pine cones and fine, feathery leaves.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — The massive dawn redwood in the front yard was one of the things that drew Bill Williams and wife Sarah to purchase their 1967 home on a half-acre on Herbmoor Drive.

“We needed to move. I needed an office,” Bill said.

“I tell people we bought a tree and got a house to go with it,” Sarah said.

According to arborday.org, the dawn redwood — a fast-growing, easily transplanted, deciduous conifer that produces small, round, half-inch to 1-inch cones — is “an ancient tree that knew the dinosaurs.”

“The tree is one of the best climbing trees I’ve ever seen,” Bill said. He recounted the story of hearing his son, Brayden, 11, call out, “Yo, Dad,” and looking to see Brayden two-thirds of the way up in the massive tree, well above the roof of the house. He said his daughter, Aurora, likes to climb the tree, too.

“I can get halfway up,” Aurora said.

Bill said he found out about the Big Tree Hunt through local media and knew that their tree, at 11 feet 6 inches around the base of the trunk and 100 to 110 feet tall, was a contender.

The Big Tree Hunt is sponsored by ReLeaf Michigan, a statewide volunteer nonprofit tree planting and education organization. According to its website, “ReLeaf Michigan has worked with over 400 communities across the state. Working with community volunteers, we have planted nearly 30,000 trees on public property in Michigan’s cities, townships and villages.”

Locally, the organization planted 75 trees at Freedom Hill County Park in Sterling Heights Nov. 1 and 16 trees at Kennedy and Felker parks in Hazel Park Oct. 19.

Ted Reuschel is the state coordinator for the Michigan Big Tree Program, sponsored by the Michigan Botanical Club, which maintains the official register of the biggest trees of each species.

“It is independent of the ReLeaf Michigan program, but collaborates, and we do transfer some of their biggest trees to our state register after the contest,” Reuschel explained via email.

He said the contest is sponsored by ReLeaf Michigan to arouse people’s interest in trees and their role in the environment.

Each tree nominated for the Big Tree Hunt contest is entered into a database and given a score based on the girth of the tree 4 feet from the ground, the area of the crown spread, and its height.

An arborist visited the Williams’ tree to take measurements.

Bill estimates that their tree was planted when the house was built.

ReLeaf Michigan notified the Williams family via email that their tree was selected as a state champion in its species. There was an awards ceremony Nov. 23 in recognition of the winning trees at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland.

The Williams family is doing things to update their landscaping as they remodel the home, but they have no plans to cut the tree down.

“We’re keeping the tree,” Sarah said.

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