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The Historic Gathering Place: The Sad Death Of Our Landmark Banyan Tree

By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper

April 18, 2024

Just this past Thursday we received news that the majestic Banyan tree located at the northwest corner of BF James Park is dying from an incurable disease. We have many parks and a variety of trees throughout the City. This particular tree is in the Banyan tree family of which there are many species. It is unique as they are native to India and sadly there are few of them still standing. Like any living organism they can have varied lifespans.

Our City Manager, Dr. Jeremy Earle who in addition to having his Doctorate in Public Administration is a Certified Landscape Architect. He is deeply knowledgeable and shares a passion for the value of trees and nature. He spent time with me and other community stakeholders on Friday out at the tree.

He summed it up perfectly by explaining trees are living just like humans. They can live many years. Some die early and some can live over 100. There are the outliers. Like humans they are subject to old age environmental impacts, natural disasters and yes, illness.

We are not certain about how old the tree actually is but with the research I have been pouring over many of the trees along the FEC corridor were brought by settlers and travelers and planted back in the early late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The one in Deerfield is known to be over 100 years old.

As a City we have strived to not only preserve every tree but have set out to add to our tree canopy. We have decided that a Full- Time Certified Tree Arborist on Staff is required in order to preserve all our trees. Joe Tollis’s expert training allows him to see in trees what we as lay people would not even notice.

He observed that the tree was in distress. After thoroughly examining and evaluating the conditions and changes in the canopy, limbs and trunk that had taken place he concluded it was deceased with Hypoxylon Canker. In Banyan Trees, unlike Oaks, Aspens and other varieties that can be saved with treatment, sadly it is not curable in this species.

Just like any good Diagnostician, he wanted to get a second opinion to verify his findings. The City Manager agreed, and we hired another State Certified Arborist. Kenneth Knight of BTS Land Services. He went out and did a thorough examination and concurred with the original findings. His findings documented that within two years the tree would be dead. In addition, he shared the tree hazard rating as extremely high and risk of falling imminent even under normal weather conditions. (If you would like a copy of the report please email me).

With the report we are now obligated to remove the tree since it poses an imminent threat to life safety. The tree is situated right along the sidewalk at the corner of the park with many limbs hanging over it. The rest of the tree overhangs open space where children and visitors can walk and sit. Currently the tree area, sidewalks and some parking spots around the tree are closed off.

All of us were shocked and saddened. I, like many, were profoundly upset and dismayed. I had many questions and actually spent time speaking with the arborist. I share the same questions many of our residents have been asking since the news. While I am upset I stand by the information and decision. I also have spoken to other individuals that work in the landscape industry and they all agree.

Biggest question has been why now? This type of disease is internal. It can progress within a short time frame. Just like Cancer the prognosis can be months or years. Over the years damaged spots make it more vulnerable.

Why cut it down? Why not trim? Trimming the tree will create further instability. It will not stop the disease’s progression. The proximity to sidewalks and roadways makes it impossible to simply barricade it off and let it die a natural death.

As of the writing of this article, the City was already looking to contract with a tree removal service. The next questions are what will happen after removal? Dialogues that have occurred with some community members include the possibility of saving parts of the tree and repurposing it. Creating a plaque with some history and taking oral testimonies about life experiences surrounding the significance of the tree and the role it has played in their lives. We want these ideas to come from the community and be supported by the community. We know it has become a significant part of the fabric of our history and has touched the lives of many who have grown up here.

I will continue to keep everyone posted, as always.

As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns and ideas to make our City better! I can be reached at: Or: Or Facebook: Mayor Joy Cooper. You can always call my Office number at: (954) 457-1318. Or Call/Text me at: (954) 632-5700. Working for you! Always have! Always will!

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