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(Enlarge) Richard Drake, an employee from Skookum Contract Services, directs a forklift to place a tree cookie into a wooden box at the Arts and Crafts Center on Sept. 5. The box would later be filled with a green wood preservative and the cookie dried so it could be displayed at the Fort Meade Museum sometime next year. The tree cookie was taken from a 5-foot thick red oak that stood in the field behind the museum, but had died in the past six months. (Photo by Barbara Taylor)

A 5-foot thick historical red oak that stood in the field behind the Fort Meade Museum and was considered a landmark on the installation is now being preserved for history as a "tree cookie."

A tree cookie is a cross section of the tree trunk that reveals its "tree rings." A tree typically adds a spring and summer ring during each year of its growth. These tree rings reveal the age of the tree and the extent to which the tree has grown each year through history.

Inspected several times since the fall of 2010, the red oak was determined to have been in decline for several years. On Aug. 20, Carroll Tree Service, a subcontractor for the Melwood Horticultural Training Center on post, cut down the tree.

Dawn Taft, the Directorate of Public Work's Operations and Maintenance International Society of Aboriculture Certified Arborist for Melwood, and John Houchins, Natural Resources Program manager for the Environmental Division at the Directorate of Public Works, each inspected the tree in March for its general health and structural soundness.

When it was determined that the tree had died sometime last winter, it was approved for removal in March. Houchins decided to make a tree cookie from the red oak, he said, because the tree was "an institution at Fort Meade."

"I thought it would be a good idea to preserve a piece of the tree for the future and correlate its growth with the growth of Fort Meade," Houchins said.

Taft and Houchins worked together to ensure that the contract to remove the tree included saving a portion to make a cookie suitable for use by the Fort Meade Museum.

"The museum did not want to lose our tree, " said Barbara Taylor, Fort Meade Museum exhibits specialist.

But when it was determined that tree was a potential hazard, the museum staff understood that it had to come down.

After the tree was cut down, a log was taken from the museum to a stockpile area on post. In the meantime, Taylor and Richard Laderoute, business manager of the Arts and Crafts Center, constructed a 5x5 wooden box to soak the tree cookie in a green wood preservative.

On the morning of Sept. 5, Carroll Tree Service cut the cookie from the log. Houchins conducted a preliminary count of the tree's rings and made an estimate that the tree dates back to the 1870s, predating the establishment of Camp Meade in 1917.

"We were hoping it was older [dating to the American Revolution]," Taylor said. "The tree looked big enough to be that old of a tree."

Skookum Contracting Services, a contractor for the Directorate of Logistics, then used a forklift to transport the tree cookie from the landfill to the Arts and Crafts Center to place it in the preservative.

After the tree cookie is soaked for 10 to 14 days, it will be loosely wrapped and moved to the museum storage facility on Clark Avenue, where it will be stood upright in a wooden cradle to dry slowly for a year.

Taylor said that after a year, the tree cookie will be sanded and a formal and final tree ring count will be made to determine the tree's actual age. The cookie's rings will then be marked for important historical dates after the Civil War such as World War I and the establishment of Camp Meade, World War II and the Vietnam War.

The tree cookie will then be finished and put on display at the museum.

"We, at the museum, were very, very sad to lose that tree. We decided to make a cookie because that tree was our tree," Taylor said. "We tell the history of Camp and Fort Meade, and that tree's rings also tell a story of Maryland's history. It was a witness."

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