COEUR d’ALENE — While the Freedom Tree will be removed during construction of McEuen Park, its legacy will live on.
The tree, located in the large parking lot at the end of Fourth Street, is being removed to make way for a parking structure and pedestrian access into the park. The city said in a press release it plans to salvage about 30 feet of the tree’s base in an effort to preserve history. City officials are asking residents for their ideas on what to do with the wood.
The parks department is planning to make benches and possibility do some chainsaw artwork on 7 or 8 feet of the base. Also discussed is creating keepsake blocks from the tree that include an inscription of the planting date and the kind of tree, a Norway spruce. Another idea is to hold a ceremony prior to the removal as a way for people to gather and remember what the tree has stood for during the past 50 years.
“The Freedom Tree represents a very special piece of our history, one that symbolizes the incredible bravery and courage of our veterans,” said Parks Director Doug Eastwood. “We plan to do everything we can to ensure its legacy lives on for decades to come.”
The tree was planted in the early to mid-60s, primarily as a way to prevent Fourth Street from extending farther south and ultimately encroaching onto Tubbs Hill. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that it became a symbol of freedom. In 1972, a plaque was placed at the base of the tree to honor local U.S. Air Force pilot Fred McMurray, who was shot down and held captive. McMurray was eventually released and returned home to Coeur d’Alene. The tree also paid tribute to all others who were missing in action during the war.
While the tree will be removed, the plaque and Veterans Memorial will be relocated to a more prominent area in the park. A new Norway spruce will be planted and named the ‘Freedom Tree’ in an area just west of the new Veteran’s Memorial. The new memorial will also include flags from each branch of the military and a medallion that identifies the branches as well as the year each branch originated. The American Flag will be front and center and a P.O.W. flag will flank the military flags.
To share your ideas on how to use the Freedom Tree wood to preserve history, visit the city’s Facebook page at CDAgov or email firstname.lastname@example.org.