Tifton Gazette

Local News

March 11, 2006

Landmark still recuperating from fire

TIFTON — The 400 year-old magnolia tree was once a vibrant and thriving symbol of Tifton and a staple for Tifton tourism. But now the tree and the green space surrounding it are locked behind a fence, accessible only to members of crews attempting to clean it up.

According to Tift County Human Resources Director Karen Meija, it’s doubtful whether the park will ever re-open to the general public due to vandalism and security concerns.

“We keep it locked up because of the vandalism,” Mejia said. “I doubt if it will ever open up to anyone other than school groups or other kind of groups because of the risk of more damage.”

The fire damaged the tree and an observation deck under the tree in August 2004. Fire officials never released the cause of the blaze.

Since then, the gated park has been closed to the general public.

Marianne Hill, former president of the Magnolia Tree Foundation, said that the current state of the tree is just sad. She hopes that people will once again come together to restore the majesty of the tree that, at one time, was the largest in the state.

“I hope people can get behind this beautiful tree once again,” Hill said. “People still visit it when they’re in town and it’s something we need to fix.”



To contact reporter JD Sumner, call 382-4321.

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