Fort Myers woman marries a tree

Giant ficus has shaded Snell Family Park for more than 100 years

By Roxy Tyler - Web producer

Photo courtesy of News-Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Karen Cooper was ready to go out on a limb to save her beloved, so she got married - to a tree.
    
Specifically, a giant ficus that's shaded Snell Family Park in Fort Myers for more than a century.
    
The tree became the center of a neighborhood controversy when city staff began discussing cutting it down last year. Cooper, who lives nearby, began mobilizing to save it.
    

The News-Press reports effort that culminated with the waterfront nuptials Saturday, complete with flowers, music, a tree-decorated wedding cake and a canine ring-bearer named Little Bear.
    
Though rooted on city property, some of the Indian laurel's 8,000-square-foot canopy and root system extends to a neighboring lot, for sale for $1 million.
    
After a site visit last December, the city's public works department OK'ed the tree's removal after the beautification board had been notified. In February, the board discussed spending $13,000 to cut down the sprawling tree and replacing it with smaller geiger trees.
    
Once neighbors got wind of those plans, the protests started: phone calls, posters, fliers and, most recently, Cooper's wedding, during which she and several other white-dressed women vowed to honor and protect it before some 50 onlookers.
    
Cooper got the idea from a group of women who've been protesting deforestation in Mexico by marrying trees, she said. "So I saw that and I thought, 'Oh we should marry the ficus tree - kind of giggle, giggle - but everyone said it's a really good idea, so I said, 'OK, let's do it.' 

The protests and wedding have apparently made an impact on city lawmakers who are now considering scrapping plans to get rid of the tree.

Still, Cooper said, "The fate of the tree remains uncertain."

"If they cut down the tree, I'm going to be a widow," she said.
 

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