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Bah Humbug! “Belleview Christmas Tree” Removed For FDOT Project

By Bryce Abshier – Contact Bryce@thevosm.net

For many locals in Belleview, it was a treasured part of the holiday season. Each year, local Girl Scouts would create ornaments and decorations that would be displayed on the large evergreen tree at the intersection of CR 484 and Highway 441. The ornate crafts would then be hung on the tree by Girl Scout leaders.

Scout leaders and volunteers like Debbie Mosley, Florence Whitman, Carol Yeaman, Brenda Robinson, Diane Drake, Peggy Boatright, Marilyn Smith, Cindy Miller, Mindy Thompson and Sharon Badney would make Christmas memories at this special tree for local children that would last a lifetime. The decorations were homemade by approximately 300 local Girl Scouts themselves. Each year, their goal was to have the tree fully decorated by the last Sunday before Thanksgiving, so holiday travelers could admire it on their route. Ornaments were purposely made large so they could easily be seen on the tree.

In recent weeks, the tree met an untimely end as it was demolished by way of a Florida Department of Transportation project. The details of the project, however, remain unclear and could stay that way until November, or later. “Our design team is currently evaluating several alternative intersection configurations at the locations (the intersection of CR 484 and Highway 441),” explained a project manager with FDOT. “The final recommendations will not be available until late this year or early next year.”

The Florida Department of Transportation also plans to hold a public meeting in the Spring of 2024 where all of the “corridor improvements” will be on display. The Voice will report details on that public meeting as they become available.

The Girl Scouts first began decorating the tree in 1990 and the tradition ran strong for many years. It was a collaborative effort that involved help from South Marion Firefighters to hang the higher-up ornaments. As the firefighters would sometimes need to leave to respond to calls, the City of Belleview chipped in a helping hand by donating a couple of employees and a bucket-truck to do the work. Once completed, a large celebration with hot cocoa and Christmas carols would be held in the neighboring shopping plaza.

Due to safety concerns, the tradition of decorating this tree was eventually abandoned. Still, many could nostalgically look at the retired “Belleview Christmas Tree” on their morning commutes and reflect on a simpler time in South Marion County.

A 1998 Letter to the Editor by Belleview resident Dale Richardson outlined the appreciation that many locals shared for the work of the local Girl Scouts. “I was headed home from work the other day feeling anxious. I knew I still had countless things to do before my day would come to an end. You know, those days when you are sure you will never get half of the errands done that you so artfully planned,” wrote Richardson. “I pulled up to the traffic light on 441 and C25 ready to face the possibility of a two light sit, when I turned to mush.” Richardson went on to write how many felt about the tree. “I would like to thank the Girl Scout troop that supplies us yearly with this tremendous act of love. The minute I saw the trimming of the tree I was washed with a sense of warmth. These young ladies give us this gift year after year and I think they deserve at least the gift of thanks in return.”

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor)

1 Comment

  1. Pamela Guenther on July 16, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    I enjoy seeing the updates of what is going on now around my favorite little town of Belleview but saddened by this last news article. Sometimes ‘progress’ has a way of destroying fond memories that are hard to let go of 😕. I am missing Florida and my own hometown of Ocala. I hope not everyone has forgotten me and miss writing my weekly column there the ” Community Spotlight”. Hope everyone is doing well, say hi to Sandy for me 😊

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