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Gee tribute tree chopped down, reasons unknown

Courtesy of Joe Motil

Every Sunday, Joe Motil, the president of the Tuttle Park Community Recreation Council, visits the Tuttle Community Center to landscape. But one Sunday, he noticed a special tree had been damaged.

Sometime between May 11 and the early morning of May 12, a ceremonial tree at the center that was dedicated to President E. Gordon Gee was chopped down.

“I noticed that the tree had been chopped down,” Motil said of his May 13 discovery. “It looked like it had been done by an ax or hatchet. There was about a 5-foot-tall stick that was stuck in the ground and it had, what appeared to me, some miniature dead red roses around the top of it that almost looked like a cross.”

Motil said the tree cost about $300. The whole memorial, which also has a plaque and marker stone, was $800.
The memorial was a celebration of Gee’s 2007 return as university president. He was present at the installation of the tree in 2008.

Motil said the forestry division of the City of Columbus has replaced the tree.

“(They) came in and took the root out and the tree ball and everything and put in a new tree,” he said.

Lance Barber, the center’s recreation supervisor, said the division took a tree from another area and planted it on May 21. He said he does not have any suspicions as to who vandalized the tree or why.

Jessica Williams, a second-year in biology and recreation assistant at the center, said she thinks someone was trying to make a point about the president by cutting down the tree.

“I thought it was kind of ridiculous that someone would go that far to chop down a tree just to make point,” she said. “I guess because I think it was for President Gee. So they were trying to make a point against him, but I think that it was just ridiculous and stupid and there’s a better way that it could have been done.”

Williams said it could be related to Gee’s decisions that are considered by some to be controversial.

“Well, I know with the whole parking lots being sold to an off-campus place, so that we could no longer have control of it,” she said.

“That on top of the other controversies that have been going on on-campus with the different diversity groups and stuff like that. I’m not saying it’s connected to the groups on campus, but I’m saying it irked somebody enough … to cut down a tree.”

Motil said everyone at the center has their own personal opinions.

“I think it had something to do possibly with President Gee,” he said. “I think it was someone’s way of trying to vent their disputes over one of his policies.”

Motil said the City of Columbus is going to install three or four surveillance cameras around the rec center.

“They are going to place them in various areas,” he said. “Hopefully that is going to eliminate a lot of what’s been going on down there.”

Motil also said mounted police have been patrolling the area. A recent rush of car break-ins led to their presence.

“Police reports have been filed and they have been increasing their presence in the area,” he said. “That’s been a big plus, so hopefully this will stop.”

Barber said vandalism has been a problem around the rec center area. He said $500 worth of mature plants was stolen out of a memorial garden in the rear of the center several months ago.

“(In the spring we’ve usually) seen a spike in vandalism as more people are out and about,” he said
Columbus Police Sgt. Richard Weiner said a police report was submitted and it has gone out to the Columbus Division of Police zone investigators.
“At this point, there is a very small solvability factor,” Weiner said. “We have no leads (and) no tips.”

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