On June 6, 2002 Maryland’s Historic Wye Oak tree fell during a storm. This living tree was estimated to be 460 years old and was the largest white oak tree in the nation and possibly in the world! The Wye Oak was commonly thought to be “Maryland’s State Tree”, and in fact was the magnificent specimen that inspired the white oak species to be named Maryland’s official state tree in 1941.
Recognizing the profound historical significance of this tree and its importance to the citizens of Maryland, Governor Parris N. Glendening directed State agencies to work together to salvage as much of the tree as possible. The end goal is to ensure that future generations can continue to learn about its history and enjoy and appreciate its magnificent beauty and splendor by maximizing appropriate use of the tree material.
Every effort was made to salvage as much of the tree material as possible including leaves, twigs, bark, branches and the bole (i.e., trunk). Engineers were consulted during the salvaging efforts to ensure that whole pieces were dismantled and moved in as intact a form as possible to preserve options for use. All parts were taken to secure storage locations where they will remain until final decisions are made regarding use and disposition of the material. The only pieces of the tree that have been made available to the public to date are a limited number of leaves and small twigs that State personnel put in tubs for people to take when they came to view the fallen tree and witness the salvage efforts on site.
Governor Glendening asked Marylanders to submit creative ideas and suggestions on how to use the salvaged material from the Wye Oak. In response, 520 people submitted suggestions and ideas on what to do with the tree and the Wye Oak State Park. Material salvaged and available for use includes the main bole, tree branches, sawn boards, pressed leaves, dried leaves, twigs, “punky” (i.e. decaying) wood, bark, decaying leaves, and cable wire.
Governor Glendening created an interagency Wye Oak Advisory Committee to review public suggestions and develop a plan to memorialize the Wye Oak. Key findings and recommendations of the Committee include:
FINDING: Every part of the fallen Wye Oak tree, including bark, stems, leaves and decaying material, has value and can be used for education, research, display, artwork, and/or souvenirs.
FINDING: The tree has inherent education qualities.
- There should be at least one spectacular art piece and/or museum piece created which conveys the magnificence and splendor of the Wye Oak
- Some of the tree and products made from the tree should be available for official State use including: educational programs, research, public displays, certificates, awards, and commemorative items. The limited lumber milled from the branches should be commissioned for special pieces of furniture to be used in perpetuity in the State House such as a Governor’s desk, Bill Signing Table, or Governor’s Podium.
- Core samples should immediately be taken from the bole for investigative purposes
- The bole should be treated as soon as possible to protect it from damage from micro-organisms
- All material from the tree should be authenticated to protect the integrity and uniqueness of this project. To maintain authenticity:
- All material should be inventoried, photographed and catalogued
- Chain of custody records should continue to be kept for all material
- The official logos created for this project should be protected through trademark and/or copyright registration
- All products should have the official logo incorporated into them, and
- A certificate of authenticity should accompany all original material and products.
FINDING: Wye Oak State Park is an integral part of the local community.
- Education and outreach regarding the Wye Oak should occur via the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry Education program. Other existing public outreach and education venues should also be used such as the State Fair; the DNR Website; production of an MPT program; and development of an education packet
- Additional education opportunities for the creation of in-school programs should be solicited through a Request For Expression of Interest (see below).
FINDING: The State does not have adequate resources to fund, staff, or manage this process.
- A permanent Wye Oak museum should be established in the existing buildings at the Wye Oak State Park
- The Wye Oak bicentennial seedling growing on site should be honored
- The existing Wye Oak stump should be enclosed for public observation
- A structure should be built which has a significant piece of the original Wye Oak incorporated into it so visitors can take pictures and perform ceremonies there.
FINDING: The public has an interest and would like to be involved in making recommendations regarding appropriate uses of the Wye Oak.
- The State should not manage the day-to-day implementation of this project. The State should partner with one entity to manage production and sale of products, creation of artwork and disposition of wood. The following process should be followed:
- The State should issue a Request For Expression of Interest (REOI) to formalize the solicitation and submission of ideas for uses of the Wye Oak material
- The expanded Wye Oak Advisory Committee (see below) should evaluate all proposals submitted via the REOI process along with ideas previously submitted by the public. The Committee should recommend appropriate and preferred uses of the material to be included in a request for proposals (RFP)
- The State should issue an RFP to solicit an entity to manage the project and implement the recommended uses of the materials.
- Project efforts should be funded via sale of original Wye Oak products. A licensing agreement should be negotiated with the entity selected to manage this project. The agreement should include royalty payment details and other financial conditions to ensure adequate compensation to the State
- Preferred items to produce for sale include jewelry, collectables, souvenirs, fine art objects, and limited edition pieces
- The revenues generated from the activities of the Wye Oak Commemoration Project should initially be placed in the State’s Forest or Park Reserve Fund. Upon review of the RFP, a decision should be made as to whether it would be most appropriate to pursue creation of a special fund, through submission of legislation in the FY2003 Maryland General Assembly, to account for revenues generated and expenditures incurred from the activities of the project
- Special requests for wood from the Wye Oak should be considered through the REOI process.
- The existing Wye Oak Advisory Committee should be expanded to include five additional members including representatives of the State Parks Advisory Commission, Forest Advisory Commission, business community, legislature, and local community (i.e., public)
- The expanded Wye Oak Advisory Committee should make final recommendations regarding disposition of the bole and preferred products to be crafted from the Wye Oak materials. The Committee’s recommendations should be incorporated into the RFP to clearly communicate to potential vendors what the State wants produced and delivered in the management of this project.