Andrew Dys

York “uproar” saved courthouse Christmas Tree. Now it has lights in time for Santa

The Grinch, he did not steal the Christmas Tree in York.

The people kicked the green goblin out.

And just in time for Santa and his reindeer, the huge tree saved from the ax by the uproar from York residents will have $2,000 worth of new lights.

The Yorkville Historical Society – riding the outcry wave that kept politicians and bureaucrats from cutting down the 100-plus foot deodar cedar at the corner of Liberty and Congress streets next to the York County Courthouse for eight decades at least – bought the lights. And the city’s fire department is putting them up.

The lights will be unveiled Dec. 7 right after the city’s Christmas parade.

“The people of York raised a mighty outcry and wanted to save the tree and now we will have new lights on the tree,” said Gary Gross of the Yorkville Historical Society. “And not just this year. For years to come.”

The tree is in the city limits, but sits on county property. County taxpayers had spent about $10 million on courthouse renovations, and the tree blocked the view of the building. Its roots and canopy also were an issue.

After The Herald reported in July that county officials had claimed the tree had stopped growing and should be cut down, residents complained to both city and county officials. The city’s historic commission denied the county’s request to cut down the tree, unanimously, in August.

The people spoke; the tree lives.

But that still left the tree with no decorations to make it what the people said they wanted – a Christmas Tree and community gathering spot at the holidays as it had been since the Japanese surrendered.

But the tree fight spurred the people to make the tree great again. The historical society, a nonprofit group, was so impressed by the hundreds of residents who wanted the tree saved that it bought the lights.

“This really was an effort of the community and city to preserve a part of history that makes York such a great place,” Gross said.

York Fire Department Chief Domenic Manera and his firefighters provided the labor to not just put up the lights, but build and install a 20-foot ring at the top of the tree that supports electrical lines. Friday, firefighters Matt Johnson and Robert Brakefield rode to the top of the fire department ladder truck to install the lights at a dizzying height.

Traffic even had to be rerouted around the intersection. City cops provided that service.

Final touches will be done Monday, then Dec. 7 comes the big beginning that is really a return to the past. The parade will end, the lights will go on, and a city will cheer.

The ovation will be for the lights. But the cheers will be for those who fought to save the tree, and won, so that Santa Claus would know how to find York where the people who sang a siren song of outrage kept the Grinch of government overreach in its cave where it belongs.