Group redocuments local stately giant

by Dan Holland

As the old saying goes, it can often be difficult to see the forest for the trees. But as one tree in Broadview Heights has proven recently, it sometimes can be just as difficult to pinpoint a singular tree in a forest – even when that tree is more than 250 years old with a trunk that measures nearly 13 feet around.

Marc DeWerth, founder of Big Trees Ohio, says that’s what happened recently after a Broadview Heights tree designated a Moses Cleveland Tree was “lost” for more than five decades.

In remembrance of Moses Cleaveland’s landing at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on July 22, 1796, DeWerth explained, the Cleveland Sesquicentennial Commission in 1946 appointed the Committee on Moses Cleaveland Trees to discover and label area trees deemed to have been alive at the time of Cleaveland’s landing. Once designated, hundreds of area trees in Northeast Ohio received a plaque noting their historical and natural significance.

The Broadview Heights tree, located alongside West Boston Road, approximately a half-mile west of Broadview Road, was among the trees to receive the designation. The sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which measures 154 inches in circumference and stands more than 60-feet tall, is thought to be more than 250 years old.

“The committee did a second round of putting plaques on trees in the 1970s, and this tree was probably in that second round,” DeWerth. “With the Moses Cleaveland tree program, they originally had everything on a rolodex with card stock, and if someone wanted information on a tree, they would hand them the card with the information on the tree, but if the card never made its way back to the office, it became lost over time. The records of a lot of those trees ended up being lost; I helped to rediscover many of them.”

This particular tree was “rediscovered” by DeWerth this past December on the Broadview Heights property belonging to Clyde and Betsy Bena, who have lived at the address since 1968.

“In 1976, they had a group come out and they said they wanted to determine if the tree had been here when Moses Cleaveland first landed here,” explained Betsy. “They measured it and did some tests and determined that it was 250-300 years old. So, they put a plaque on the tree at the time.”

The couple recalls tapping the sugar maple one time back in the 1970s.

“We boiled all the sap in the house and discovered very quickly why they have sugar houses, with all the steam going all through the house,” Clyde mused. “But we still got enough to make about 30 gallons.”

The couple is watchful when tree trimmers representing power companies or cable companies come by, which necessitated help from the city two years ago.

“These guys representing the power company came to take off some of the big limbs, and so I called city hall and talked to Dave Schroedel, the city service director,” said Clyde. “He came right out and halted the work and made sure that they didn’t take off the bigger branches.”

In addition, police officers and residents aided Clyde in sawing and removing a large limb that broke off the tree and fell across the roadway blocking traffic last year.

According to Betsy, a local arbor company dispatched a tree doctor recently to examine the tree, and it was determined that it was still healthy and viable.

“What worries me is that when we’re gone, who is going to protect the tree?” said Betsy. “Maybe our grandkids or someone will buy the house and continue the legacy for us.”

“The significance of finding these trees is to make the public aware that Ohio does have many large trees, old trees and historic trees that need to be noted, taken care of and preserved for the younger generations coming up so that they will know, understand and hopefully cherish and protect them for years to come,” said DeWerth.

Big Trees Ohio maintains social media pages on Facebook and Instagram. ∞

Broadview Heights resident Clyde Bena stands next to the
Moses Cleaveland tree in his yard that was “lost” for more
than 50 years. Photo by D. Holland.