WARSAW, Ind. (WANE) — Although Indiana’s state tree is the tulip tree, sycamore trees also have deep ties to the Hoosier State.
Indiana State University’s nickname takes direct inspiration from the tree, and Sycamore Row in Carroll County has been recognized by both the Indiana Historical Bureau and the former Indiana State Highway Commission in the past.
Now, a homeowner in Warsaw is working to save a sycamore tree in her yard that is believed to be older than America.
Gita Kamdar, who owns a home at the corner of N. Colfax and Sheridan streets where the tree resides, said she first learned some of the tree’s history when she bought the house.
“[Our realtor] had mentioned that this is one of the oldest trees in Kosciusko County or the largest tree in Kosciusko County,” Kamdar said.
However, Kamdar later learned that the tree could have been at least 275 years old, and after an arborist conducted an official report on the tree, she discovered the tree is even older than that.
“That gentleman determined its age to be over 330 years old,” Kamdar said.
The tree’s three-century run first became at risk after City of Warsaw officials starting moving forward with a neighborhood sidewalk project that would add sidewalks in the area around Lincoln Elementary School.
“Currently in this area, if kids are walking to school, they are walking in roads [and] they are walking in alleyways that may not be lit properly,” said Warsaw City Planner Justin Taylor. “In the winter, you can imagine if the kids are way out in the road, it’s just not a good situation.”
The project is expected to add around two miles of sidewalk to the neighborhood and will cost around $3.6 million.
One aspect of the project involved clearing trees and other obstacles to make way for the sidewalks, which put the tree at risk.
City of Warsaw officials discuss the background and details of the sidewalk project
A few weeks ago, Kamdar came home and found pink paint sprayed onto the tree, which is when she learned about what would happen to the tree for the first time.
“I came home from lunch and just saw a big ring around my tree, and my heart just sunk,” Kamdar said.
Since then, Kamdar and community members have voiced their desire to keep the tree, and both Taylor and Warsaw City Engineer Aaron Ott have worked to make revisions to the sidewalk project that will keep the tree safe and intact.
Ott said the revised plan would add a bump out to that stretch of sidewalk, which would extend the width of the sidewalk and allow the tree to be preserved.
Although the revisions still need to be approved by the Indiana Department of Transportation since INDOT is providing some of the project’s funding, Taylor and Ott said the revisions would not change much of the project’s costs or the estimated completion date, which should be around summer 2024.
Since reaching out to city officials about the issue, Kamdar said they have been extremely helpful and understanding of the situation.
“From the very beginning [and] from the very first conversation with [Taylor], I felt like he wanted to save this tree too,” Kamdar said.
Likewise, Taylor and Ott also said they have appreciated how the community has responded to the situation.
“We appreciate that they’re approaching this with respect, and it was a very fair request that they brought to us,” Ott said. “We’re glad we had a chance to reevaluate this and possibly avoid doing something that we didn’t need to do that would upset several of our residents.”
On Saturday, Kamdar plans to host a rally at her house from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. that aims to celebrate the tree and be a place where community members can share their memories and favorite stories about the tree.
“What I want to do is just show my appreciation to the community for coming forward and speaking up about the tree and sharing their stories,” Kamdar said.
It is unclear when INDOT will make a decision on the City of Warsaw’s revised plans.