By Melonyce McAfee and Jordan Bissell
(CNN – Nov. 26, 2014) — The 50-foot Christmas tree decorating downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, was supposed to spread holiday cheer, but instead it made some residents unhappy.
“It looks sad,” City Council President Francis Acosta told CNN affiliate WFMZ last week. “Everybody’s calling it a Charlie Brown tree.”
A group called Christmas for Downtown Reading raised $1,000 from business and community donations toward purchasing a replacement tree, but a last minute change of heart means the original tree that was denigrated far and wide on the Web will stay in place.
Acosta had earlier vowed to replace the tree that observers called “pathetic,” “ugly” and an “embarrassment.” The puny Norwood spruce had already lost many of its branches, even though it’s not yet December, and it was sparsely decorated with a simple string of lights.
“If there was a squirrel looking for a place to live in the winter, it wouldn’t even go into the tree,” remarked one passerby.
City workers arrived Monday to remove the lights and prepare the old tree for transport to City Park to make room for a newer, better tree. But Acosta granted the tree a last-minute reprieve, according to WFMZ, saying he now wants to leave the tree that has gained so much notoriety in place as a draw for visitors to the downtown area.
“We will keep this thing here and we will call it the ‘ugly tree’ that everyone and national television is calling it, and we’re going to see it as an opportunity to bring people to downtown Reading,” said Acosta.
He told WFMZ that letting the old tree stay put would free up municipal workers to prepare the city for a coming snowstorm.
Acosta is soliciting more donations to help decorate the tree better.
The new tree is still being delivered and will be on display elsewhere in the city, say officials. The debate over whether to replace the tree is annoying some residents even more than the “ugly” tree did.
“It’s frustrating that they can’t make a decision on their own and go with it,” Reading resident Zachary Lee told the local news station. “We can’t afford to just be sending these [public works] guys here. There’s a lot of other stuff these guys need to be doing, and we want to complain about this tree when there’s other parts of the city that are nowhere near as pretty as this tree, that people don’t find any beauty in.”