Nancy Taylor rescued her tree once, when she was a little girl.

More than 70 years later, she tried to rescue it again.

When she heard the chain saws rumbling, she ran outside into the front yard. She hit the workers with sticks and yelled at them, threw their chain saws in the ditch when they ran to call the police. Then she took a rope, encircled her neck and tied herself to the 90-foot-tall tree.

When the police came, they untied her from the pine tree and tried to calm her down. They took her into her house, where she hid. But she couldn't escape the sound of the massive tree falling outside.

The crews cut down the row of spruce trees on the west side of the property, three catalpa trees in the front yard and about a dozen silver poplars before they tackled the giant spruce.

"When it hit the ground, it was like somebody dying," she said. "I couldn't watch it, but I heard it as it fell."

She called it her "Silverton tree," and everyone who has lived in Palisade for a while recognizes it as the Christmas tree that's decorated every year at Thanksgiving and stays lit until Groundhog Day at the southern intersection of 37 Road and the Frontage Road. Sometimes Taylor illuminated the tree during Broncos games for good luck. One time she saw a family stop to admire the tree in the yard and pray.

Every year at Christmas, she decorated it from base to tip and it served as a beacon for passers-by along U.S. Highway 6 through Palisade. It dwarfed the house she grew up in, where she lives now with the youngest of her children, Rosie, who is 51 years old.

Now, the only hint that the tree used to be there is a stump taller than the 4 feet, 8 inch, 86-year-old woman. The massive blue spruce is a casualty to a right-of-way being used for access to a new subdivision called Cresthaven Acres.

"Now it's just a yard of stumps," she said. "It's horrible."

Losing the tree feels like losing a part of the family to Taylor, who loves telling the story of how she rescued it.

When she was only 11 years old, she went on a trip with her parents, Fred and Helen Maurer, to Silverton. On their way home back across Red Mountain Pass, a slide blocked the route.

As they waited hours for crews to clear the rubble, the family noticed a tiny tree that slid down the hill with the snow, soil and rocks. It was only about 18 inches tall.

"Oh Daddy, can we take it home?" she asked.

He had a gunnysack handy, and carefully wrapped the exposed roots in snow and soil, securing it for the journey home to Palisade.

She and her father planted it in the front yard of the house, and it continued to grow over the years. Taylor graduated from high school, married, had six children, divorced and eventually moved back into her childhood home after her parents died.

Taylor remembered her father gave a right-of-way to the state transportation department in the front yard long ago, but she never imagined it would be used later.

Her son-in-law, John Dyer, sold the land after his plans for development didn't pan out. He had planned 31 smaller homes for the property behind Taylor's house, on the land once used for grazing sheep. But those plans fell through in the economic downturn after 2007, Dyer said, and he had to sell the property for financial reasons in 2017.

Dyer said he didn't know that Chronos Builders, the developers of Cresthaven Acres, was planning on cutting down all the trees for an access road when he sold them the property.

"In hindsight, I wish I wouldn't have," he said. "I made a mistake and I wish that I could have hung onto (the property)."

The first home in Cresthaven Acres is currently under construction, and the first phase of development calls for 10 houses to be built closest to Taylor's home.

Though Taylor said she knew the property would be developed, she didn't know she would only be left with less than half an acre of the original parcel, which was about 10 acres. She also didn't realize her trees and clothesline were located in a right-of-way that had been granted to the Colorado Department of Transportation back when her parents owned the property, which she believed would never be used because I-70 was built since then, and there was no need to further expand Highway 6.

Taylor said she still cannot believe the landmark tree is gone and she's angry this happened. It's not over yet, she said, as she looked at her mangled clothesline and a 100-year-old rose bush in the front yard that will be removed soon.

"They've destroyed everything I ever had," she said.

Recommended for you