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Texas Forest Service issues call for famous tree nominees

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BRECKENRIDGE, Texas — Nestled in the midst of the hot, dry, wind-swept plains of Stephens County sits an gnarled old oak that has been providing refuge for passing travelers for more than a century.

So the story goes, the Half-Way Oak — which received its name because it’s planted midway between Breckenridge and Cisco and Ranger to the south — might even have served as a rest stop for infamous characters like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.

On Friday, Texas Forest Service will recognize the tree’s storied past by formally designating it as one of the state’s famous trees.

“It is said that every tree tells a story, especially those that witnessed significant events on the Texas frontier,” said Texas Forest Service Forester Gretchen Riley, who oversees the program. “The Half-Way Oak is a tangible representation of this history and we’re lucky to still have it.”

The Famous Trees of Texas are an elite group of trees that witnessed exciting periods and events in Texas’ frontier history. The program started in 1970, when 81 trees received the designation and were memorialized in a book — Famous Trees of Texas — published by Texas Forest Service.

The trees are now showcased online — http://famoustreesoftexas.tamu.edu — with updates reflecting the current status of the trees.

With just 58 of the original 81 designees still alive, Texas Forest Service is launching a call for nominations in an effort to better document the state’s famous trees before they perish.

The Half-Way Oak is the first tree to be nominated and added to the list in four decades, but officials hope to grow the list to as many as 100 by 2015, which will mark the state agency’s 100th anniversary.

“Many of our Famous Trees are succumbing to the ravages of time, nature and neglect,” Riley said. “We’re hoping to recognize additional trees and their stories before they are lost.”

Nominations can be made by the general public through the Famous Trees of Texas website and will be reviewed by a steering committee. To be considered famous, a tree must be:

  • Located at or near the site of a significant state, county or community event and must have been alive at the time of the event.
  • Directly connected to one of the 18 historical topics listed on the Famous Trees of Texas website.
  • Recognized by a Texas Historical Commission marker or identified in historical records, newspaper accounts or photos.
  • In reasonably good health and likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

Dedication Ceremony for Half-Way Oak

Noon on Friday, April 29, 2011, at the site of the tree

For more information about the tree and dedication ceremony, call Mark Hanna at 512-326-7616.

 

Texas Forest Service Contact: Gretchen Riley, Forester

979-458-6650, griley@tfs.tamu.edu

Writer: Holly Huffman, Communications Specialist

979-458-6605 office, 979-324-0708 cell, hhuffman@tfs.tamu.edu


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