Washington County creates souvenirs from fallen Mingo tree

April 27, 2014
Jeffrey Donahue, superintendent of recreation for the Washington County Parks and Recreation Department, creates “tree cookie” souvenirs from the branches of an ancient, popular sycamore tree that fell at Mingo Creek County Park. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

EIGHTY FOUR – Fans of a popular old-growth sycamore tree that fell this month in Mingo Creek County Park can now own a piece of one of its branches.

Jeffrey Donahue, superintendent of recreation at the Washington County Parks and Recreation Department, is creating “tree cookies” the size of dinner plates and saucers to pass out for free to those with a fondness for the nearly 300-year-old sycamore, whose branches collapsed to the ground April 13.

“I’m sure there will be people who will want a memento of that tree, so we’ll have them,” Donahue said last week while he was using a chain saw to create the souvenirs at the county maintenance garage on Route 136 in Nottingham Township.

He said he received many telephone calls from people with a fondness for the nearly 300-year-old tree after learning about its fate.

The tree with a hollow trunk had become a popular backdrop for weddings and graduations parties. For generations, people posed inside of it to capture special memories.

Donahue said the county was fortunate no one was hurt when the branches fell onto a walking trail on a day when the park was crowded with people.

He said some of the souvenirs have “character” as they have interesting designs in them from where branches hollowed as the tree aged.

“Some of them are just plates of wood,” he said.

Laura Quinn said she is happy to learn the county is giving away pieces of the tree as it and the park became a special place for her family.

“Like many other families, mine has a collection of photos taken together with the tree, inside and out,” said Quinn, of Pittsburgh, who also visits the park with the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh that meets in an observatory in Mingo.

“That tree may be dead, but its memory lives on in many of our hearts,” she said.

Quinn also said she plans as a woodworking artist to create small wooden souvenirs from the wood, objects that could be sold in the park booth during festivals.

A large portion of the base of tree trunk that did not fall was still standing last week in the park.

“We have not received any guidance on what to do with the trunk,” Donahue said.

The souvenirs can be picked up at the county maintenance garage during normal business hours.

For more information, call the parks and rec office at 724-228-6867.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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