LAKELAND, Fla. — A fight between Lakeland neighbors and the city is growing, and all over a tree.
But it’s going to take more than just love to save this iconic Oak.
“It’s been here longer than some of the houses have been here,” said Shawn Hedman, a Lakeland resident.
It’s hard to believe there could be much more to love than Lakeland’s swans, lakes and homey neighborhoods.
But there's one thing overshadowing it.
“It’s a huge beautiful tree,” Hedman said.
Lakeland’s 'Lover's Oak' has been a Lake Morton staple for more than 100 years.
“It predates the city of Lakeland, so it’s a very old tree and it’s very iconic and if you look at old pictures of the neighborhood you’ll see that tree in it from the 1920s or before,” Hedman said.
The tree is known for bringing young lovers together, family pictures and even weddings have taken place under its sturdy branches.
But after one of its limbs came crashing down last fall, the city has been ready to cut it down.
“But that’s true of any tree on this block so I have to hear a good reason why that tree would have to go,” Hedman said, defending the tree’s faults.
Soon after, the city granted a stay for the tree, after neighbors rallied around the iconic oak.
Then, came Irma.
“It’s survived the hurricane recently and which other trees fell and that one stood,” Hedman said.
The Lover's Oak, withstood the storm, so a local couple decided to marry under the tree in September.
It might have just been the last wedding the tree will overlook.
“If you show negligence that we haven’t done something there could be a serious lawsuit,” Kevin Cook, with the City of Lakeland, said.
The city will be bringing in a tree doctor, of sorts, to analyze the old oak tree.
“If it can be saved he’s going to let us know how to save it if he’s also going to be very honest and if it needs to come down he’s gonna let us know,” Cook said.
The tree expert, Joe Samnik, will be coming to town on March 5th to perform tests on the tree.
If it is deemed healthy, Samnik will help the city treat the tree, if not, it will be coming down.