County discusses liability of Hula Hoop Tree

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The Jones County Supervisors’ discussion surrounding the popular Hula Hoop Tree in Amber on E-23/County Home Road drew a crowd at their Sept. 10 board meeting. 

This wasn’t the first time the board discussed the liability of the roadside attraction. 

There was brief discussion with County Engineer Derek Snead and Assistant Engineer Todd Postel during the Aug. 27 board meeting as well. 

At that time, the discussion centered on a request for signage for the tree, which wasn’t favored among the Engineer’s Department. 

Before any discussion began, Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach addressed the rumors that quickly spread online regarding the agenda item. 

“Three weeks ago we had some light, unofficial discussion,” he began. “We received feedback on the concerns, liability and safety of having people on the road and crossing the road.” 

Zirkelbach explained he owns the fenced-in property behind the Hula Hoop Tree, but leases it to someone else. 

“We’re not talking about the future of the tree,” said Zirkelbach, quashing talk as to whether the county would take the tree down or not. “It’s been a social media circus, and that was never on our agenda.” 

County Attorney Kristofer Lyons said there are several notable concerns with the tree. One, the tree is dead and could fall on someone with the weight of the hula-hoops. With visitors to the tree parking alongside the roadway, that poses a safety hazard, especially on a curve. People also cross the roadway to get to the tree, also at a curve in the road. 

“This exposes the county to some liability,” summarized Lyons. He said if the county knows the tree poses as a safety concern and does nothing to correct the situation, the insurance company might have an issue. 

“We’ve had zero calls of service out there, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen,” added Lyons of accident reports. “It’s in the right of way, we know about it, we should do something about it.” 

It was asked if warning signs would help to lessen the liability. 

“You don’t gain liability alerting people to what’s ahead,” offered Lyons. 

Several people present to persuade the county to save the Hula Hoop Tree said it’s a county treasure that people enjoy, and that visitors come from all over the state and country and stop to see the tree. 

Others said erecting reduced speed limit signs seemed like the least costly solution. 

Lyons said it’s hard to predict what a jury would do if an accident occurred on E-23. Would reduced speed limit signs reduce the county’s liability out there? He couldn’t say. 

Sheriff Greg Graver said it is not against the law for vehicles to pull off the roadway, onto the shoulder, as long as they have their hazard lights turned on. He suggested reducing the speed below 55mph. 

“If you reduce the speed, I don’t see an issue,” said Graver. 

Another person in the crowd said a dead tree is a nuisance. 

“Eventually dead trees fall down,” the gentleman said. “If the owner of the dead tree ( Jones County) isn’t taking care of the nuisance, the county is totally liable.” 

The man suggested with as much money the county spent at Central Park, perhaps a Hula Hoop Tree could live in the county park. 

However, Snead said the tree might not lie in county right of way. 

“The fence doesn’t mean right of way,” said Snead. “But it’s definitely very close.” 

“If it’s on private property, it’d be up to the owner,” hinted Supervisor Ned Rohwedder. 

Zirkelbach said he had a conversation with Bobby Krum of Amber, who serves on the Amber Community Club, regarding the fate of the tree. 

“If the tree goes down, are there plans for a new one?” proposed Zirkelbach. 

The board directed Snead to survey the area to determine if the Hula Hoop Tree sits in the county right of way or sits on private property. That property would belong to Zirkelbach. 

“Little did we know that a Hula Hoop Tree would have so much support,” said Rohwedder. 


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