NewsLocal News / April 8, 2014

Eastside Neighborhood Rallies Around Temple Oak

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Sam Klemet
Eastside Neighborhood Rallies Around Temple Oak

About 15 years ago, Bob and Sheila Adsit decided to move from the westside to their current home on the near eastside.  Their search for a new place to live ended when they fell in love, not with a house, but a tree.

"We just knew that when we saw the tree and there was a for sale sign on the house, we said 'well we know we want to buy the tree, throw the house in with the tree,'" said Sheila Adsit.

The tree on the Adsit’s property is no ordinary tree, especially in Marion County.

It’s commonly known as the Temple Oak because of its location at Temple Avenue and Brookside Parkway South Drive. It's almost 400 years old and almost 18 feet around.

The best way to understand its mammoth stature is through a story of a bet.

"Our mailman at one point in time bet a couple of his colleagues that it would take more than five people hand-in-hand around the tree and he won," said Bob Adsit.  "It took more than five people to go hand in hand around the tree."

In fact, it can take a lot more.

A neighbor who keeps a scrapbook of the tree has pictures showing up to 10 people hugging around it.

And because of its size, the Temple Oak has become an icon in the neighborhood.

In 2007, it won a contest as the city’s most huggable and remarkable tree, and  former Mayor Bart Peterson made a proclamation declaring it historic and majestic.

But last fall, Sheila Adsit noticed the Temple Oak looked different.

"The leaves used to be a brighter green and then it got to be kind of a yellowish green," she said.  "That's how I started noticing that there was a problem."

The problem is Oak Lace Mites which attack the leaves and takes the chlorophyll out of the tree, as well as depriving it of nutrients.

Treating the problems is going to cost $8,000, so the Springdale Neighborhood is holding a fundraiser to help save it.

"I think we will have enough to do at least spraying for the tree," said Bob Adsit.  "Hopefully we can get some other resources, but, I'd hate to think that this beautiful tree would die."

And if it does, it will mark the loss of a landmark for the city.

"There is actually bigger Chinquapin Oak elsewhere in the state, but if I had to guess, I'd guess this is the biggest one in the county," said Nate Faris, arborist and Director of Community Forestry with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.  "Somehow, this tree made it through settlement and developement and a lot of trees don't do that, but this one did."

He does not believe there is any structural damage to the Temple Oak, but says it does need treatment for the Oak Lace Mites and deadwood.

Faris calls tree an attraction, but also important for ecological reasons, as well.

"This is a host for many lepidoptera, which are caterpillars.  Oaks as a genous are known to support about 500 different species of caterpillars and a lot of birds and other parts of the ecosystem in this area rely on those caterpillars," he said.  "This tree is a giving tree in that sense in that it host those species."

But, above all else, the Temple Oak is a symbol of home for Sheila and Bob Adsit and represents the life they’ve built together in the Springdale Neighborhood.

"The tree stands for neighborhood stability and permanance and that's what we want in this neighborhood," said Bob Adsit.  "The fate of the tree and the fate of the neighborhood kind of go hand in hand because we think this tree is our neighborhood icon."

The fundraiser to help save the Temple Oak is from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Tick Tock Lounge on East 10th Street.  A dollar from every drink purchased will go towards the refurbishing efforts.