GLEN ELLEN — A centuries-old oak tree that provided shade and inspiration to writer and adventurer Jack London when he lived in Sonoma County will be allowed to stand for a little longer after lab tests showed it is healthier than California park officials originally thought.
The decaying oak was scheduled to be taken down as a safety precaution last month because it is infected with a fungal disease. Officials at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen worried that a branch could fall off and injure a visitor or damage the cottage where London lived and wrote from 1905 until his death in 1916.
The end was so close that park rangers hosted several events this year to honor the tree, including a Native American blessing ceremony, a dramatic storytelling and having children harvest its acorns for replanting elsewhere.
But park boosters sought a reprieve, turning to a University of California, Berkeley expert in forest pathology who concluded that “Jack’s Oak” had another two to 10 years before it would have to be removed as long as it was regularly monitored. Three arborists had determined earlier that the tree was beyond saving.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Jack London Park Partners executive director Tjiska Van Wyk, whose group manages the 39-acre park that includes the cottage and the ruins of a house that was destroyed by fire in 1913.
“In the season of joy, we consider this a great gift.”
To protect the public and the cottage, the park has instituted new parking restrictions near the tree and plans to inspect and prune it regularly.
“We’re not out of the woods. We’re in a gray area where the risk needs to be assessed,” said Matteo Garbelotto, the Berkeley adjunct associate professor who conducted the most recent tests.
The 50-foot tall, 350- to 400-year-old tree sits on the former Beauty Ranch, the property “The Call of the Wild” author bought in 1905 to be close to nature. London could see the oak from the window by his desk in the cottage and drew inspiration from it that surfaced in his later work, California State Parks senior archaeologist E. Breck Parkman said.
“I think everyone is going to be pleased that this tree has a little more time,” Parkman said.