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Residents concerned over centuries-old tree's fate ahead of new medical school

ELMIRA, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - Not everyone can say they've witnessed Elmira's history first hand for over 160 years, unless your a beech tree.

That beech tree at Arnot Park may not get to stay around much longer if the new medical school gets built there.

"I just want to make sure it's preserved, I'd hate to see it destroyed," Mark Delgrosso, a history fan and who raised awareness on the tree through Facebook, said. "Perhaps Elmira College already has plans to dig here, I don't know that. That's what I'm trying to find out here."

This tree has seen Elmira's history first hand over the more-than 100 years it stood here. With the new medical school proposed to be built here, it may see it or it may not.

"I'm not willing to give up a $20 million state-of-the-art medical facility and let that really come in the way," Elmira Councilman Brent Stermer said. "I'm fairly sure the rest of council would support this."

This beech tree was planted in 1856, when Lewis Stancliff and Julia Reynolds, two prominent and wealthy Elmira residents, moved into a home built on what it is today Arnot Park. The home is no longer here, and neither might this tree.

"If it was the only tree left in Elmira, or the only European cooper-beech left in Chemung County," Stermer explained, "or the only one left in New York State, I would be concerned."

But Delgrosso quotes one of the first things people see when entering Elmira, the welcome sign.

"'Preserving the past and building the future," Delgrosso said. "Well, they're building the future with this brand new beautiful building, but I want to make sure they preserve the story with this beautiful tree."

"We have to progress forward into the future, we have to preserve the historic buildings we have," Stermer said. "Sometimes if they get in the way of progress we have to remove them, but we have to be a growing and evolving city."

Monday night, the Elmira City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the medical school construction. There was no mention as to what would happen to the tree.

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