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Neighbors who wanted a decaying tree out of their sight lines got a free gift from Madison Gas & Electric Wednesday, when the power company took down an 80-foot tree believed to be between 75 and 100 years old.

Workers from Hooper Corporation felled the cottonwood tree as part of a voltage upgrade MG&E is doing in the Park Street and Fish Hatchery Road triangle, near the old Bancroft Dairy site that is scheduled for redevelopment.

"The purpose for it is to increase reliability and to meet the demands of that area down there," MG&E spokesman Steve Kraus said.

The area is going to see increased demand, especially with the new construction, said Jack Eich, MG&E's corporate communications manager. 

The tree was going to be in the way of putting in new, higher capacity utility polls. It was already leaning toward the lines, Eich said.

"We talked to the neighbors and they were very cooperative," he said. "From what I heard, they might be doing cartwheels right now."

The time-consuming, two-day project was complicated by the power lines that surrounded the tree.

According to MG&E's forester Scott Nelson, cottonwoods were probably a prevalent tree in that neighborhood at one time, but most have died.

Cottonwood trees are common near coastal lakes, but there aren't many left anymore, Nelson said. They live about 100 years, so this one was near the end of its life expectancy. There were a lot of dead limbs on the top and a lot of decay in the trunk.

"It was still alive, but hanging on," Eich said. 

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