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Longmont family heartbroken after city orders 40-year-old tree to be cut down

LONGMONT, Colo. -- To anyone else, it’s just a tree. A big tree in old town Longmont. But to one family, it means so much more.

“It represents strength and endurance and love,” said Quinn Finn, who was one of three girls to grow up in the house.

Kent and Patty McDonald planted the cottonwood tree in front of their home, which they bought in 1977. It's one of three trees they planted to represent their three daughters.

“She watched it grow like the three of us,” said Erin Dawe, another one of the McDonald’s daughters. “She watched us grow and start our own families and it’s almost symbolic of all the branches with seven grandkids.”

Forty years later and 60 feet taller, the tree -- just like the family -- has endured.

“This shows you our mom and all that she’s been through and come out through the other side in a better place,” Finn said.

Patty, Erin said Quinn’s mother has battled through breast cancer and is now battling her health again in the hospital.

“She was home for a few days, which is when the city showed up to tell her (the tree) was coming down the week of the 20th,” Dawe said.

The big tree has become a big problem for neighbors because it produces cotton.

The city had a list of regulations for trees in Longmont and cited two ordinances, one for nuisance trees and another for cotton-bearing trees.

“The City has been working with the neighborhood on this issue for more than 25 years," the city said in a statement. "Many attempts have been made to mitigate the negative impacts resulting from the tree, yet none made a significant improvement.

"A neighborhood involvement effort has been underway for more than a year to find a solution to this issue. Considering all options based on neighborhood and staff input as well as the Council-approved ordinance on nuisance trees on city property, the City has determined that it is best that the tree be removed and replaced.

"Because litigation has been threatened in this matter, the City is unable to comment further.”

So the family’s tree, which is on city property and does produce cotton, will be cut down. And mom might never have the chance to say goodbye.

“She would love to be here,” Dawe said. “She would love to be hugging this tree, but she can’t.”