Large bur oak against a partly cloudy sky

Sesquicentennial Oak Tree Felled for Highway Expansion

Majestic Bur Oak on Wisconsin Highway 26 - April 2013
Majestic Bur Oak on Wisconsin Highway 26 – April 2013

If you are like me, you worry about politicians who don’t share your values. But often it’s the bureaucrat, unknown and out of the public eye, who makes the most frustrating decisions.

Recently it was discovered by local environmentalists and nature preservationists that a large bur oak would be cut down to make way for an expansion of Wisconsin State Highway 26 between Milton and Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Naturalists estimated the majestic oak to be at least 150 years old. Unfortunately, it stood rudely in the sights of a surveyor’s transit as he lined up a new north-bound lane to Fort Atkinson. Consequently, the tree would have to come down.

Plans for the highway construction were well under way when the preservationists discovered that the tree would be felled. Earth moving equipment was already moving into place at several places on the construction route.  A last minute protest was organized and appeals were made to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to save the tree. These efforts, however, fell on deaf ears and it was reaffirmed that the tree would be removed. When a newspaper reporter asked why the tree had to come down, the director of the project stated that in order to save the tree, the highway route would have to be changed.

(At this juncture, young people I know would say, “Duh.”)

Why the route would not be changed, or why no one at the Department of Transportation thought about saving the tree in the first place was not reported.

The “mighty oak” is a poetic image, a metaphor for strength, rectitude, and endurance. Unfortunately, this mighty oak was no match for highway planners.

Oak Tree Felled
Site of the Felled Bur Oak – May 2013

To memorialize the bur oak on Highway 26  Tracy Hegg of Milton, Wisconsin created a wonderful poster that displays the tree in its four seasons. These posters are available online to those who might like to purchase one.

Our Favorite Tree Created by Tracy Hegg
Our Favorite Tree
Created by Tracy Hegg

From the Janesville Gazette, June 11, 2013


A 24-by-30-inch poster showing the historic oak that once stood along Highway 26 north of Milton can be purchased at Posters are $10 each, plus $10 for shipping and handling. Money from the poster sales will be used for planting trees along Highway 26.

Tracy Hegg, who took the photos for and designed the poster, has set up a Facebook page at The page allows people to share photos and stories about the bur oak, which was lost to highway construction.

Posters also will be delivered to the Rock County Parks Department, 3715 Newville Road, Janesville, today to be purchased without shipping and handling fees. Hegg said any posters purchased from Rock County will go directly into the Green Fund for Highway 26 bike-path improvements, including planting trees.

Posters also can be purchased at the Jefferson County Parks Department, Jefferson County Courthouse, 320 S. Main St., Jefferson. The money collected by Jefferson County will go into the Glacial River Trail Tree Fund.

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