On January 16, 2012, a Central Florida icon was destroyed by fire. At the time, The Senator was estimated to be 3,400 - 3,600 years old making it the 5th oldest tree in the world. It had been the largest Pond Cypress in the United States and the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River.
The fire was the result of human carelessness when 26 year old Sara Barnes lit some tinder at the base of the tree because she wanted to see better in the dark. Unfortunately, Barnes didn't report the uncontrolled fire allowing it to spread to the interior of the tree. She was later arrested on drug charges, as well.
Following the devastating fire, the 125 foot tall tree with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet was left with only the 20-25 foot tall charred remains. The public was stunned by the loss of this beloved tree that had stood in Seminole County's Big Tree Park. In an effort to allow people to own a piece of Seminole County history, remnants of the The Senator were offered to the public.
As of January 16, 2013, requests for pieces of the Senator have exceeded the wood available for distribution and the program has come to a close. Several of the pieces of the Senator are displayed in the Museum of Seminole County History at 300 Bush Blvd in Sanford, Florida.
On January 30, 2013 Big Tree Park, where the Senator was located, closed to prepare for a rededication in March. A Memorial of the Senator and the dedication and naming of its "clone" is planned for Saturday, March 2, 2013. Seminole County's elementary school children have been invited to participate in a naming contest for the clone. Big Tree Park is home to another giant cypress tree students of Geneva Elementary School lovingly named Lady Liberty. It is 89 feet high and 10 feet in diameter. It's estimated to be 2000 years old.
For more information about the Senator and Big Tree Park visit the Seminole County website.