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An elderly Maple tree in front of the Jackson County Courthouse in Scottsboro, Ala., is marked off from foot traffic after arborists have deemed it unsafe and dying.

The arborist who analyzed the Norway maple on the Jackson County, Ala., courthouse lawn says the 80- to 100-year-old tree poses a safety hazard and needs to come down.

"The maple tree was observed on a court day and it was noted that someone seemed to be under the tree, going into or leaving the courthouse at all times," Landscape Management Consultants certified arborist Lee McBride states in his report.

"The tree provides a meeting place for old friends who tarry and visit for a few moments," McBride states. "It should be noted that several people with wheelchairs and canes were under the tree for extended periods."

McBride noted numerous problems with the tree, including decay in its trunk and several branches "all are quite large and heavy, capable of causing significant damage to any target impacted."

He also said that a probe sunk 20 inches into the soil indicated a possible void under the tree and remarked that walkway work probably damaged at least 40 percent of the tree's roots on one side and an undetermined amount of root damage on another from more recent work.

The damaged roots are vulnerable to pathogens in the soil that could lead to "catastrophic failure with the entire tree falling in some direction," he said.

"This tree should be considered a hazard by its owners and be removed as soon as possible," McBride recommended.

"It's something we're going to have to do, unfortunately," Jackson County Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges said last week.

Officials on Tuesday said that a date has not been set for removing the tree.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

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