Whether blown into his tree by a storm or tossed there as a practical joke, Jon Zirkelbach says he’s not sure how two hula hoops ended up caught in its branches. Now, five years later, the once barren dead tree in eastern Iowa is decorated with hundreds of colorful hoops — as many as 400 or 500. The tree has become the county’s top roadside attraction. But popularity has a downside. Safety concerns about the traffic, as well as the stability of the tree, were raised at a recent county supervisor board meeting. Local lawmakers said something needed to be done, leading to rumors that the county intended to cut it down.
… Word spread on a Facebook page dedicated to the hula hoop tree, with locals and out-of-state visitors alike expressing outrage at the idea of taking down the tree. The tree is on both county-owned land in the right-of-way and spans onto Zirkelbach’s property, raising questions about liability. Another issue: the tree sits along a stretch of road where the speed limit was 55, and it’s not uncommon to see a number of cars pulled over on the gravel shoulder.
… Locals have suggested that the road’s shoulder could be widened to accommodate parking, or the hoops could be relocated to another healthier tree or structure. Zirkelbach said the cost of doing so is prohibitive. Instead, in consultation with the county attorney and engineer, the commissioners opted to lower the speed limit around the tree. New 35-mph speed limit signs were ordered and are expected to be installed later this month.