For my thoughts on the re-opening of Walt Disney World, see this.


By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Lawnmower Tree



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE LAWNMOWER TREE AT FORT WILDERNESS

By Jim Korkis

For several decades, a natural wonder delighted guests who came to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Every time guests would visit they would seek out this living curiosity to see how it had changed over the intervening time since their last visit and were always surprised.

Years before Walt Disney World ever opened, someone who lived in the area had leaned an old, push-style blade lawnmower up against a tree and left it there. No one seems to know who that person was or why they left the lawnmower there.

When a tree is growing, and it encounters something that gets in the way of its growth, it can do three things: stop growing, grow away from it, or grow around it.

The tree grew through the tool so it was absorbed and became part of the tree’s gnarled roots above the ground with significant rusting parts sticking out prominently.

As the area was being developed for the campground, the lawnmower tree was discovered by WDW Imagineers who thought it looked interesting and decided to leave it as a hidden treasure curiosity rather than remove it.

It was located just off the sidewalk about five feet from the path about halfway between Pioneer Hall and the marina about a hundred feet off the lake.

The Imagineers even decided to create a back story to explain its existence and integrate it into the lore of the campground. They evem installed a sign next to it:

Jim Korkis Fort Wilderness Lawnmower Tree from yourfirstvisit.net

So the lawnmower tree was a popular landmark at the resort since its opening in November 1971.

As the decades passed, more and more of the lawnmower disappeared into the tree as it expanded until roughly 2007 when just a few rusting blades were still visible at the foot of the tree.

By then, the tree was dead, either through natural causes or having most of the upper half of the tree cut off. Anyway, only about twelve feet of the trunk remained and the tree had stopped absorbing the remains of the lawnmower.

Disney Legal determined that the rusty remains provided a possible safety issue since guests sometimes would go up and touch the parts.

The Disney Company hired an outside contractor to quietly remove the tree in late October 2013 without alerting the guests.

The tree was so well known that it was listed in the earliest Birnbaum Official Guides to Walt Disney World as “a point of interest worth hunting down” and continued to be listed into the 21st century editions.

The Disney Company itself promoted the lawnmower tree as a “fun fact” on official handouts to the media and it appeared on the earliest campground maps.

Over the years, many significant landmarks have disappeared from Fort Wilderness including the famous railroad, the first water park River Country, the petting zoo that had Minnie Moo the cow with the black three-circled Mickey Mouse imprint on her side, food trucks and other things.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim. Come back next Friday for even more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.

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1 comment

1 Anthony { 03.21.16 at 12:58 pm }

Walt Disney World is just ripe with history, and it’s one of the few places that has a significant number of unofficial curators.

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