Amber Hula Hoop Tree comes down

Roughly seven years ago, the Amber Hula Hoop Tree got its start in Amber, Iowa, here in Jones County. Over the years, it’s become a tourist attraction for people, not only from around Iowa, but across the country as well. (Photo submitted)

This was the site of the Amber Hula Hoop Tree on Friday morning, May 1, after the owners removed the tree. Jon Zirkelbach, the owner of the private property, said the decision was due to people’s safety on the busy roadway, as well as people not following COVID-19 health restrictions. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Staff report

     Due to increased issues with visitors at the Amber Hula Hoop Tree not following the Governor’s COVID-19 guidelines, the famed tourist attraction came down late last week on May 1.

     Over the last several weeks, people from out of county have flocked to the Hula Hoop Tree, which has been adorned with hula hoops for the last few years. Visitors were seen not social distancing, nor wearing facemasks in the crowd. Several people driving by on County Home Road E-23 reported people standing in the roadway, too.

     Visitors were also trespassing on private property, cattle ground owned by Jon and Tracy Zirkelbach, to retrieve hula hoops.

     Zirkelbach asked County Attorney Kristofer Lyons during the April 28 board of supervisor meeting who’s responsibility it is to enforce the Governor’s COVID-19 rules. That falls on the Sheriff’s Department.

     “From a law enforcement perspective, people gathering like that in general is in violation of the Governor’s order,” said Lyons of the amount of people at the Hula Hoop Tree site. He said it’s no different than friends gathering at someone’s house after the Governor mandated only being with one’s household.

     In September 2019, the county supervisors, Lyons, and Sheriff Greg Graver all discussed safety concerns on E-23 with the Hula Hoop Tree. At that time it was agreed to lower the speed limit to 35 mph.

     Since the Hula Hoop Tree has come down, the Amber Community Club, led by Amber resident Bobby Krum, started a GoFundMe account to raise money for a metal monument honoring the tree. The goal was set at $2,500. As of Monday morning, May 4, $195 has been raised.

     “We at the Amber Community Club have dreaded seeing this day come for our little community, but we knew it would come eventually,” stated Krum. “It was the best move for safety of the visitors to remove the tree at this time. The Hula Hoop Tree has brought so much enjoyment to so many over the years and put little Amber, Iowa, on the map as a tourist destination, which we will always be grateful for.”

     A couple of years ago, a tree at Riverside Gardens in Monticello started seeing a few hula hoops on its branches. Monticello Parks and Recreation strongly discourages people from throwing additional hula hoops in that same tree.

     “We are looking for alternative options within the Riverside area that would be better options, as not to harm a healthy growing tree and not disturb the surrounding flower gardens that the Riverside volunteers work so hard on,” stated Parks and Rec on their Facebook page.


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