Ax attack on tree remains unsolved

It wasn’t the crime of the century, or even of 2008.

But when an ax-wielding vandal tried to fell the iconic fir tree at Chambers Bay Golf Course, it had Pierce County tree lovers buzzing.

Eight months later, the crime remains unsolved. The victim is recovering. But it’s not out of the woods yet.

“The tree is doing well. We don’t see any signs of stress at the moment,” said Tony Tipton, Pierce County’s Chambers Bay project manager.

“The caveat here is that it would probably take a year or two for the long-term effects of the injury to begin to show.”

It was an unfortunate incident at a time when Chambers Bay was benefiting from a wave of favorable publicity. The University Place course opened in June 2007 to rave national reviews. And last February it was chosen to host the 2015 U.S. Open and the 2010 U.S. Amateur championships.

Many of the subsequent media articles featured photos of the lone tree at the former gravel pit. Aside from its promotional value, the tree also is a roosting spot for bald eagles and a scenic highlight of a walking trail through the course.

But on the night of April 29, someone took an ax to the Douglas fir, leaving an 18-inch-long wound that cut 8 inches deep.

The county consulted an arborist, who stabilized the wound with metal straps and applied an epoxy putty. The county also began a long-term maintenance program that includes mulching, additional nutrients and watering.

Arborists later declared the fir had a good chance of surviving. But Tipton said it will be next summer before the county has a better sense of the tree’s long-term health.

In the meantime, the vandal remains at large.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and charges against the person or persons responsible. To provide information, call 253-591-5959. Callers can remain anonymous.

David Wickert: 253-274-7341