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Where did Cedar Rapids get its Christmas tree? This woman's front yard

For two years in a row, she donated spruces now on display in Greene Square

Janet Walker stands next to the tree she donated that is decorated for Christmas and on display at Greene Square in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Janet Walker stands next to the tree she donated that is decorated for Christmas and on display at Greene Square in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The two Colorado blue spruce trees near the front corner of Janet Walker’s house have looked like larger-than-life Christmas trees for years in the Jackson Elementary neighborhood.

They were just 5 feet tall when Walker moved into her northwest quadrant home in 1998. They were perfect for her small, narrow yard.

As the years passed, the trees grew and grew and grew.

At 25 to 30 feet tall and 15 feet around, they’d grown together. She could no longer get around them. The house was blocked of natural light. Other plantings couldn’t flourish. And, pruning the branches spilling onto the sidewalk became a time-consuming feat. She did it manually rather than with hedge clippers to avoid “the flat” look, she said.

“I knew something had to be done because they were taking over,” said Walker, 70.

Too big for her yard, she thought the trees could live on for a little bit longer and bring some Christmas spirit.

She called the city and offered to donate them as the annual community’s Christmas tree in Greene Square. The city accepted and took one last year, and the second is now in Greene Square wrapped with 1,200 feet of lights and 7,000 bulbs.

She called it a gift to the city.

“They were such beautiful trees, I hated to chop them down, but I’m glad people could enjoy them,” she said.

Donating the trees had advantages for Walker as well. In addition to clearing up her yard, the city covered the cost of removal and grinding down the stumps. While the city offered to plant a new tree of her choice, she said she will instead do some landscaping and perhaps add a large rock.

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“I am very happy that I could share them,” Walker said. “I would always hear, ‘It’s a gorgeous tree, such a nice shape.’ I am glad I was able to give them a last hurrah.”

Todd Fagan, the city’s forester, works with the public to line up the community Christmas tree each year.

The city has a list with at least seven people interested in donating a tree. Next year’s tree has already been selected — another spruce in the northwest quadrant. Fagan said the city looks for evergreens in the 25- to 40-foot-tall range that have a full shape and good color. The tree must also be accessible so crews can remove it, he said.

Coonrod Crane Service of Cedar Rapids donates crews and equipment each year to get the tree from the yard to Greene Square, Fagan said.

“You do look at it like picking out a Christmas tree for your home — just bigger,” Fagan said. “Luckily, we don’t have a ceiling or walls to contend with. ... If it will fit on the trailer and we think it is full and healthy with good color, that is what we look for.”

Be sure to visit Greene Square to see the lit and decorated tree, and check out our Holiday Light Finder to locate other brilliant Christmas light displays across Iowa.

• Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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