Kylene Olson (left) and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson visit the Mile Tree Saturday. Efforts are under way to keep the landmark from being cut down because of a sanitary sewer being installed between Watson and Montevideo. (Staff photo by Judy Swenson) See the complete story on page 3A.
It started with a message on Facebook —“As I write through my tears I was told this a.m. that they will be ‘cutting it right down,’ — that is the Mile Tree, outside of Watson, for the waste water line from Watson to Montevideo. I have contacted the engineer to ask that they go further east to avoid this, but I probably will not get anywhere.”
Former Watson mayor Kylene Olson wrote this on Oct. 20, about the giant cottonwood that stands adjacent to Highway 7/59, one mile south of Watson.
Now, a week later, the tree has its own Facebook page with an ever-increasing number of friends and fans — 140 at the moment.
There are photos, testimonials, even a copy of a linocut of the Mile Tree, created 20 years ago.
Among the photos is one of Olson standing next to Congressman Collin Peterson, who offered to write a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development to try to save the tree.
“It’s a beautiful tree —,” said Peterson, “a landmark. There’s no reason to cut it down.”
Olson found out about the plans for the tree’s demise by chance, when she ran into the construction supervisor at the Watson Corner Store. Since then she has made numerous contacts including Peterson, the engineers at the firm in charge of the project, Widseth, Smith, Nolting and Associates in Alexandria, the historical society, the media, and others.
She has even vowed to chain herself to the tree should that become necessary. And it seems others may be inclined to join her.
Olson became optimistic after project engineers called and told her they would contact Mn/DOT to see if the water line could be routed around the tree. They said they would look at other options to try to spare the tree, including the possibility of directional boring.
When Olson learned that long ago, farmers used the tree as a landmark when traveling to other towns to have their grain milled, she knew there must be other historical references and asked the local historical society to look into it.
“It’s a local landmark” Olson said. “And it’s been here longer than any of us have been here.”
The tree’s Facebook page confirms that others share Olson’s sentiments.
One man writes, “My brother and I used to ride our bikes from Montevideo to Watson and rest at the Mile Tree. I have fond memories of that tree. Thanks for your efforts to save the tree!!”
Another posted a copy of a linocut of the Mile Tree that he created 20 years ago. “It struck me as landmark then, and so it is today!” he said.
“It would be a shame to lose that icon!!” says another.
Other comments include:
“When I come home to see mom, this tree is such a welcoming sight. My kids now get excited when they see it. They know they are close to Grandma’s house!”
“I just spoke with a gentleman who is 85 years old and the tree was already big when he was a kid.”
“I like the Mile Tree! In a snow storm it shows you how close you’re getting to Watson. Save the tree!!”
Olson guesses the tree to be at least 150 years old. She doesn’t understand why Mn/DOT left the tree when building the highway and now wants to cut it down for a waste water line.
Follow the story on at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Watsons-Mile-Tree/161534697201981