The 'Shoe Tree' of Springwater Township is history.
The more than 80-year-old Sugar Maple laden with footwear on Crossland Rd. was chopped down Tuesday by a tree removal company hired by the County of Simcoe.
“There was too many people going across the road and almost getting hit and taking pictures and it was becoming a liability,” Stephen Bumstead of Ray’s Tree Service explained as to why the County said it wanted the tree cut down.
“It had to be removed because it was dangerous.”
No one really knows how long the shoe tree had been there. Recollections range from 10 to 30 years, depending who you talk to.
And there were as many stories as to WHY it got started.
Sometimes shoe trees are a type of memorial for someone's tragic passing.
A local librarian did some digging and reported it was a tradition for cottage visitors to throw a pair of shoes in the tree.
Springwater Township Mayor Bill French says he had no issue with the tree coming down.
French said at one time it was an interesting and unique landmark but recently been over-run with footwear.
“I don't think there's any deep-rooted story to it. It just became an eyesore and a mess and probably more of a distraction than maybe it had been for years,” said French.
“It got out of control. It was like a dump for old shoes. There was a pile of shoes at the bottom of the tree and it started becoming a bit of a traffic distraction."
The huge Maple was a ‘good 75 feet tall and probably four feet at the stump’ according to Bumstead.
It took about an hour to chop the tree down and several more to remove all the wood.
And then there were all those shoes. Hundreds. The crew removed them first.
“There was 1.2 tonnes of shoes that we took away in a one-tonne dump truck. We kind of took them all off before we started taking it down so we could minimize the mess,” said Bumstead.
“There was actually some brand new pairs of shoes that people had put on there so I was trying to find some that were my size but there was nothing that fit.”
Bumstead says some passing motorists already expressed their displeasure with the tree removal.
Area resident Janet Laurence moved to Tiny last December and is saddened the Shoe Tree is gone.
Whenever she drove past it always made her smile.
“ It was interesting and fun! It was living art and made me feel happy. My kids would call on their way home saying ‘I just passed the shoe tree so I’ll be home soon…’,” said Laurence.
“The shoe tree sparked imagination and when I passed I often thought about those who didn’t drive by, like me, but stopped to add their shoes. I chuckled thinking of people trying to toss their shoes up on the limbs."
"Another example of life changing on a dime. Life has less colour now that its gone," she added.
Just like the many stories of its age and history, everyone has a unique take on the tree’s downfall.
“It's sad to see it go but in the long term it was nailing the shoes to the tree is what led to its demise,” said Bumstead.
Mayor French can’t predict if another shoe tree will take root in his Township.
"Who knows,” he said. “But there's a lot prettier things in Springwater other than the shoe tree and part of the natural environment.”