By TIM KELLY
The local “Mystery Christmas Tree” has re-appeared for another holiday season.
For decades, someone has been decorating a robust evergreen located at the foot of Assemblywoman Dolores G. Cooper Memorial Bridge. Heading into Somers Point from Ocean City or Absecon Island, the tree is on the right-hand side of Longport-Somers Point Boulevard.
The tree stands along a stretch of highway within the borders of Egg Harbor Township. However, most people notice the tree, which stands about 20 feet tall, as they travel from Ocean City or Longport into Somers Point.
“I’ve been wondering when the Christmas tree would appear, and there it is, just as it has been for years,” Egg Harbor Township Mayor James J. “Sonny” McCullough said.
McCullough, who lives nearby, travels past the tree on his way to work at the Egg Harbor Township municipal offices, and he’s been looking out for it.
“The people doing this must be doing it secretly or late at night, when nobody is around. It just appeared like magic, like Santa Claus,” he said.
As close as can be determined, the tree was trimmed sometime after Thanksgiving and before the end of the holiday weekend. SomersPoint.com observed it for the first time on Monday, Nov. 26.
Some people believe an Ocean City resident or residents must be the phantom tree-trimmers, since a large portion of the traffic comes off the Ocean Drive bridge headed into mainland towns.
McCullough had a theory about the tree, claiming the decorations are installed by members of a prominent Longport family.
“The tree (has been decorated) for at least 20 years,” McCullough said. “(The suspected tree trimmer) was a pretty eccentric guy. He passed away a while back, and I’m guessing his family has kept the tradition going.”
SomersPoint.com was unable to independently confirm the mayor’s assertion about the tree’s origin, so for now, no names are being mentioned.
McCullough said the tree was very small when he first saw it. It has grown over the years to the point where the decorations stop slightly higher than midway to the top.
(“Whomever ) is doing this probably needs a ladder, and it still does not have the height to top-off the tree,” McCullough said.
He noted it really doesn’t matter how or why the tree is trimmed each Christmas season. The important thing is, it makes people happy.
“I look forward to seeing it and I feel good when I see it for the first time each year,” McCullough said. “It’s a seasonal thing, and it helps make you excited that Christmas will soon be here.”