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Indiana man aims to save remains of large cypress tree

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) — Ron Clark of Bicknell hopes to preserve the last large cypress tree in what was once the Little Cypress Swamp.

In a southwest corner of Knox County, known to some as Hell’s Neck, rests the remaining acres of Little Cypress Swamp, and it’s Ron Clark’s mission to help preserve the swamp’s largest bald cypress that was once part of 25,000 acres of the mammoth trees.

The tree, likely over 1,000 years old — with some estimates closer to 2,000 years — was once the oldest living thing in Indiana.

Though it hasn’t been alive and thriving for some time, Clark hopes to gain enough interest and support for the iconic tree to preserve its remains by uprooting and moving it to a newly constructed, weatherproof shelter.

“There’s only one like this, and it’s maybe been there for 2,000 years … that goes back to the time of Jesus,” the Bicknell man said of the tree’s significance.

The large cypress has a circumference of more than 45 feet and a hollowed out space large enough to shelter several people within it.

Little Cypress Swamp is near the confluence of the White and Wabash rivers and is an ecological rarity. The remaining acreage of bald cypress trees in that pocket of Knox County is possibly the northernmost point in the United States where the trees have grown wild, thriving in the sandy soil and regularly flooded grounds.

As the population of Knox County expanded, nearly all of the cypress trees were felled by the timber man’s axe, making way for more farmland as the trees were being turned into wooden shingles.

Clark hopes to make one large piece of Knox County’s natural past more accessible to residents and tourists, and he’s looking for any and all help as he moves through the early stages of planning and fundraising.

“A lot of what’s being done is volunteer, but some of this will need a little bit of money,” he said.

The former county highway superintendent said he is in talks with architect Larry Donovan and other local leaders. He hopes to finalize plans to move the tree from its original home in Little Cypress Swamp to a temporary protective shelter sometime later this spring.

Clark said he wants to act as quickly as possible because of concerns about the hastened demise of the tree that was likely caused by a combination of storm damage and vandalism.

Though he isn’t yet sure where the giant cypress tree would be permanently relocated, Clark would like to see it land in a place like the French Commons, or another locale close to a historical tourist attraction so more members of the public will see and enjoy it.

Those interested in learning more or being a part of the preservation efforts can contact Ron Clark via email at rrrclark@frontier.com.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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