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Live oaks: Tree that sparked debate was diseased, owner says

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

It was the cutting of a large oak tree in Murrells Inlet several months ago that prompted Georgetown County officials to take a second look at tree protection rules and started a battle between environmentalists and proponents of property rights.

But even if protections for oaks had been in place, the tree at the center of the issue couldn’t have been saved, said Barb Royal, an owner of the property on Bend Avenue where the tree once stood.

“The tree was deemed hazardous by a certified arborist and it was not safe to live in the house with the tree there,” she said this week. “We didn’t want to take the tree down, but we have three children playing in the yard. It wouldn’t have been safe to keep it.”

Initial reports were that the tree was cut to make way for a swimming pool, which had many inlet residents furious. Efforts to contact the property owners at the time were unsuccessful.

The tree was estimated to be about 200 years old, according to longtime Inlet residents, and age was one of the reasons it became a hazard, Royal said.

“That and because they built a house 5 feet from the tree which compromised the root system,” she added.

The Royals have lived in the house for about a year.

“It was hollow,” she said of the tree. “My 5-year-old daughter could stand in it.”

She knows people were upset after it was cut, she said.

“We mourned the loss with everyone else and would never want people to willy-nilly take down trees.” But this was a human rights issue, in her opinion.

“I believe in the laws, but also that people have the right to feel safe in their home,” she said.

As for the debate the tree stirred up, she said she thinks “it’s great.” She’s glad if it has people taking a closer look at tree protection.

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