ST. LOUIS — The “Keebler Elf Tree” in Tower Grove Park looks like it belongs in a fairy tale book.
Its long-reaching branches and hollowed out gnarly trunk have no doubt inspired generations of kids to dream up what kind of elves or fairies might be living inside.
But the stories will soon come to an end.
Tower Grove Park announced Tuesday it will be removing the old tree.
“This was not a decision that Tower Grove Park has taken lightly, and our arborists have explored all possible options,” the park wrote in a social media update, citing safety concerns for visitors.
Officials estimate the tree is between 75-100 years old.
Over the years, the park’s forestry team has spent “countless hours” evaluating the elderly catalpa tree’s condition and working on ways to keep it alive. Solutions have included installing braces that physically hold up some of the low-lying branches and pruning sections that the tree could afford to lose.
But another large branch that hangs over a sidewalk is posing an increasingly risky situation for park visitors – and the tree itself, which also has “extensive heartwood decay.”
“While we have considered removing the north side limb that hangs over the walking path, doing so would likely accelerate the decline of the tree, and it is unlikely to survive,” the park wrote in its post. “With the extent of the decay and damage to the entire tree, there is a high risk of limbs and branches falling without warning.”
Out of options to safely keep it standing, park officials said they will remove the tree later this summer.
But first, they plan to celebrate it.
Tower Grove Park already has announced a daylong series of events for Thursday, June 9. The festivities begin with story and craft time for kids in the morning. In the afternoon, artists of all skills and ages are encouraged to stop by for one last creative depiction of the tree. Local artists will also have artwork for sale. That evening, there will be a toast to the tree, with limited supplies of Schlafly’s Park Lager – which features the tree on the can design. Families are encouraged to stop by and enjoy one last picnic at the tree.
Once the tree is removed, park officials hope to have it live on in various other ways.
“Although the decay is extensive, we hope to salvage as much workable wood as possible. We plan to work with local artisans to create art and other pieces to honor the memory of this tree,” Tower Grove Park announced.
Those interested in checking out the catalpa tree can find it near the Arsenal Street and Center Cross Drive entrance, not far from the iconic Turkish Pavilion. See a map of exactly where the tree is here.