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Safety Harbor names old oak after spa owner Baranoff

The city applies to have the 200-year-old tree on Second Street N included in a national historic registry.

Published June 24, 2004

SAFETY HARBOR - One wanted to name it after President Ronald Reagan.

Another liked the name Espiritu Santo.

But in the end, commissioners agreed on a more local name for the historic oak tree: Baranoff, for Salem Baranoff, the doctor who owned the Safety Harbor Spa in 1945.

"From what I am told, Baranoff was a very giving and community-minded person," Commissioner Neil Brickfield said. "It's nice to bring one of the leading citizens of our community and memorialize him in a nice way."

Commissioners named the 200-year-old tree on Second Street N on Monday so it can be included in a national historic registry. The application form requires a name.

There are 4,475 live oaks on the registry, including one in St. Petersburg and 18 in Clearwater, said Coleen Landry, chairwoman of the Live Oak Society, who maintains the registry.

Trees on the list, which is compiled by the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, must have an 8-foot waistline measuring 4 feet from the ground. Safety Harbor's tree is 19 feet and 6 inches.

"I would say it's one of the largest in Pinellas County," said Loren Westenberger, an arborist in Clearwater. "There's a few really old live oaks in the county that are reaching that couple-hundred-year mark."

Safety Harbor should know whether the tree made the list in about a week, Landry said.

In the meantime, the city is continuing with plans to build a park around the tree, on the southwest side of the library. The cost is estimated at $300,000. An art park, featuring benches and picnic tables painted by a local artist, was completed earlier this year on the north side.

On Monday, commissioners agreed to pay an artist $40,000 to create a sculpture for the park. The theme centers around three children playing on the shore: a Tocobaga Indian, a turn-of-the-century girl and a modern-day African-American male. Mosaic tile will provide the illusion of water.

"I thought what would be cool is to show the tie of generations - what kids have done forever and always will be doing," said artist Jim Smith, who is also the county's property appraiser. "We're trying to get a mixture of culture in there as well."

The park will have an old Southern flavor, with a wrought iron fence around the tree, benches, pedestrian walkways to Main Street and Phillippe Parkway, and a 30-space parking lot. The tree will be decorated with lights. A plaque that identifies the Baranoff Tree will be placed near it.

Construction on the park should be completed by October. Smith hopes to finish the sculpture before the end of the year.

Officials emphasized that the oak tree is not for climbing.

"It does have some low branches," said Ronald Pianta, project manager. "We don't want people climbing the tree. The idea is to really enjoy the tree."

[Last modified June 24, 2004, 01:00:37]

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