A season of giving: Su Casa director and family donate tree for Columbus City Hall

A25-foot Norway Spruce recently made its way from north Columbus to downtown before arriving at its new home — the city hall plaza — on Wednesday morning.

This year’s tree was donated by Su Casa Executive Director Whitney Amuchastegui and her husband, Patricio. Department of Public Works Director Bryan Burton estimated that the evergreen was previously about 30 feet tall but would be cut down to about 24- or 25-feet before being set up at city hall.

Crews from Frank’s Tree Care cut the spruce down Wednesday morning. The Columbus Department of Public Works then transported it to city hall on a flatbed truck. From there, the tree was set up at the plaza by a combination of individuals from public works, parks and recreation and Frank’s.

Burton and David Elsbury, the owner of Frank’s Tree Care, are on the lookout all year long for the city’s tree, searching for the right one. Then, once they’ve found it, the city will ask the owners of the property where the tree is located if they’d be willing to donate the evergreen.

However, this year, the situation was a little different.

“In a way, it came to us,” Burton said.

Amuchastegui said that the tree was planted before they moved into their residence but “not a whole lot earlier.” It had grown rapidly and is three times the size it was when they first moved in.

Before being cut down, the tree had shallow roots along the top of the ground and had begun to make cracks in the nearby concrete patio. Amuchastegui said they didn’t want the tree to hurt the house, so they decided to take it down while it was still just a “superficial” problem.

She decided to have Elsbury come and look at the situation, and he agreed that that the Norway Spruce would probably need to be removed.

Elsbury said he was struck by the “shape and fullness” of the tree. He was notified about the situation in September but suggested that they wait to take the tree down and donate it to the city, as it would make a beautiful Christmas tree. The family agreed.

“We love this tree,” Amuchastegui said. “It is just full of life and it’s a beautiful tree, and we’re very sad to actually see it go, but happy it’s obviously going to a fun celebration like this.”

Elsbury said that for him, a wonderful part of the tradition is seeing homeowners react to the prospect of having their tree displayed at city hall.

“It’s fun to see the families get excited about it, especially if they have young kids, which this family does,” he said.

Burton likewise said that it’s a fun tradition.

“It’s a big part of the city of Columbus and being a small part of it, just helping get that tree set up, is just very enjoyable,” he said. “… One of the perks of the job is getting to be involved with this.”

Amuchastegui, who said she has always loved Christmas trees, called it a “beautiful celebration.” She said trees are a good reminder of generosity, family and togetherness.

“If they’re grown sustainably or if they’re sourced in a situation like this, where it needed to come down anyways, I think it’s a wonderful celebration of a time that we can all be together,” she said. “…I think that piece of Christmas is a very beautiful piece of Christmas, the togetherness. … So the pine, or any pine for that matter, is just a beautiful representation of that.”