Spirit Tree Future Uncertain - KOAM TV 7

Spirit Tree Future Uncertain


After the Joplin tornado, several images became synonymous with the recovery.

The "hope" sign at the high school. The mural on 20th and Main. And, just east of that, the Spirit Tree. 

With family on 20th street, Jonathan Fleischmann passes the Spirit Tree almost daily. For the past several years, it's been one of the few noticeable constants in a now-barren area. 

"[The area] really changed after  the tornado, man," Fleischmann said. "Before the tornado even happened, you couldn't see but just right across the street. Now you sit on my mom's balcony, you can see messenger tower. You can see [Joe Becker Stadium's] lights."

Marta Churchwell is a member of Tank Public Art the group that painted the tree. 

"We picked it out because it was there on a landscape that was empty. And it had braved the storm," Churchwell said. "It had no bark on it. But it survived."

She says the tree won't be around much longer. 

The city is constructing an overpass for the Kansas City Southern Railway tracks where the tree is located.

"I've been working with the arts group and discussing the possibility of relocating that," Joplin Public Information Officer Lynn Onstot said. 

Figuring the construction will damage the Spirit Tree, the city of Joplin is helping the artists to find it a new home.

"[Tank Public Art] did a great job in adding some color to an area that was bleak," Onstot said. "I think people felt like it brought life back in that area. You know, we recognize the significance of the tree and we hope the arts group can find another location for it so we can continue to provide the symbolism that it had."

"And of course, leaving it there would be the best thing," Churchwell said. "But I also understand that rebuilding the community just may not allow it to stay there."

"Honestly, it's gonna look really different," Fleischmann said. "It's not gonna look like Joplin anymore."

A deadline has not been set for the tree's removal. The city and Tank Public Art are taking suggestions on where to move it.

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