The Knoxville Police Department filed a report late last night detailing an incident involving a man and a handsaw on Market Street. Timothy J. Muskrat was apprehended while fleeing the scene by officers Joe Jameson and Fred Nederlander.
The report stated that Muskrat was attempting to cut down six sawtooth oaks on the south end of the square with a Craftsman handsaw (model #36085). He had cut about five inches into each tree before having to stop due to limitations of the saw. By the time police arrived, he was just finishing his last cut.
Muskrat’s home address was simply listed as “Park Bench #8.” No other details into the background of Muskrat were available, except he had the initials “WW” monogrammed on his jacket.
According to expert arborist Jack Treetopper, the five-inch cuts were enough to seal the fate of the majestic sawtooth oaks. “I saw those cuts. They are deep. Real deep. We could put some tar in them, but he girdled the trees when it became apparent he couldn’t cut all the way through them.” A tree is “girdled” if damage occurs to the tree’s cambium layer all the way around the trunk. Eventual death is the result of girdling.
On the bright side of this is that the presence of homeless on Market Square has long been considered a nuisance, but Mr. Muskrat has now paved the way for the most recent redevelopment plan to move ahead. His actions are causing urban designers to rethink the role of homeless in their development planning process.
The trees in question were a hot topic of conversations around Knoxville lately because a recent redevelopment plan called for their removal and replacement with a more aesthetically pleasing variety. The new trees would be planted in such a way to make the square more inviting, according to the developers. Some people complained and wanted to keep the sawtooth oaks, but that is no longer an issue.