A cottonwood tree gracing the entrance of the Carson City Library is such a landmark it appears on library stationary.
In fact, the library was built around three cottonwood trees, two of which were removed when the library annex was built.
Now, the last of the trees has become a public hazard and will be cut down during the Nevada Day weekend. The three-day weekend is needed to avoid working around library staff and patrons. It will cost $2,500 to cut the tree down and replace the lawn.
Parks Superintendent Scott Fahrenbruch said the decision to cut down the tree came after a library patron was hit by a limb. The roots have also wrecked havoc over the years on the library sewer system.
"We don't want to cut down the tree anymore than anyone else," Fahrenbruch said. "From an aesthetic standpoint we'd like to keep it there. If we leave it intact, there's the potential for someone getting hurt and it's not worth taking that chance."
Cottonwood trees are notoriously bad trees for public areas, he said. The parks and recreation department has removed about 70 cottonwoods from Mills Parks in the last six years because of the potential hazards of falling limbs and raised roots.
City Arborist Molly Sinnott estimates the tree to be between 50 and 75 years old. She said the tree is in a state of decay and has become a danger.
"A tree is never a hazard until there's a target," she said. "I don't like to see the tree go either, but they're trying to get the tree down before it could very possibly kill someone."
Targets abound at the library from cars to pedestrians and the building itself, Sinnott said. Branches are hanging on the roof and without the roof, Sinnott said the branches would more than likely come down. She said many parts of the tree are hollow and the roots that come above ground are rotten. Sinnott said the tree is confined on three sides from gaining nutrition and that's part of the reason the roots, which pose a tripping hazard, have come above ground.
What Sinnott and Fahrenbruch refer to as a hazard, other people view as beautiful.
"Obviously we're very attached to it," Library Director Sally Edwards said. "Aesthetically, I'm sad to see it go because it does draw the two parts of the library together. Nobody who lives here wants to see any tree cut down because it takes so long to grow a tree. But if it's a safety hazard we have to look at that first."
Edwards said eventually the library plans to expand into the area occupied by the tree, so it would have been cut down in the future anyway.
Most library attendees responded that they would prefer to see the tree stay.
"I just hate to see any of the old trees get cut down," Cheryl McNulty of Minden said. "There aren't enough of them left."
"If it's a danger than obviously it has to be done," said one patron who refused to give her name. "Otherwise I'd hate it and I'd like to see it stay."