• Orlando attraction, residents vying for piece of Seminole's Senator tree


    SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - History is for up for grabs in Seminole County. Investigators said an accused drug addict burned down the 3,000-year-old Senator cypress tree while smoking meth back in January.

    WFTV's Bianca Castro found out who's vying for what remains of the important piece of Seminole County history.

    Memorabilia inside Jim Hattaway's business offices in Longwood tells part of the story of the Senator -- the historic bald cypress tree that became part of Hattaway's childhood.

    "In the pre-Disney days for our family, there wasn't much to do for entertainment or theme parks, so we had the state parks and county parks," said Hattaway.

    But earlier this year, the massive cypress burned to the ground. The accused arsonist bragged about setting it on fire, investigators said.

    Now, Hattaway wants a piece of the history that's left.

    "When this tree died, a little part of our community died, too," said Hattaway.

    The county has received requests from all over the country for parts of the tree. Many of them are from nonprofits. Others are from residents with crafty plans for the wood.

    Perhaps the most interesting request is from Ripley's Believe It or Not. The group tells history more creatively than most other museums, and it said the Senator's story fits right in. The museum is dedicated to the world's largest, oldest and weirdest oddities.

    A tree as big and old as the Senator fits the theme.

    "Anybody interested in natural phenomena is going to be interested in this tree. 'Believe it or not, it lived X number of years. Believe it or not, it grew this tall,'" said Edward Meyer, vice president of exhibits and archives.

    And guests could get that experience soon. The county will approve requests next week.

    The accused arsonist, Sara Barnes, is charged with unlawful burning of lands and drug charges. She is expected to go to trial sometime next year.

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    Orlando attraction, residents vying for piece of Seminole's Senator tree