NORTHEAST HARBOR (AP) – Motorists endured a 10-hour traffic jam on Mount Desert Island, and it was all because of an apple tree.

Texas millionaire Charles Butt had the tree trucked from Ellsworth to his Northeast Harbor estate on a flatbed truck Thursday, and the 20-mile trip left traffic backed up as far as the eye could see in both directions.

The problem was the tree’s 20-foot height, which meant power lines had to be lifted so it could pass. It also took up two lanes.

Motorists were delayed getting to work at Mount Desert Island Hospital, Hinckley boatyard and Jackson Laboratory, among others. There’s only one highway onto the island, home to Acadia National Park.

“The tree is probably going to be cut down with the mutiny I’ve heard,” said Bianca Cooke, who sat in traffic for five hours.

Butt apologized for the transportation nightmare. “I know it’s a mess and I know people were furious and I don’t blame them,” he said.

“We feel terrible about what’s happened and we apologize. It’s ruined my week to know I’ve offended people. That’s just not something I go around doing,” said Butt, whose company, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., is based in San Antonio, Texas.

About 50 years old, the tree will join two smaller ones Butt bought from Atlantic Landscaping in Ellsworth and had transported to his home – without any trouble – earlier in the week.

The mess won’t be soon forgotten. The transport required two state police escorts, four private escorts, an 18-wheeler and utility crews from Verizon, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Adelphia cable company.

The cost was known. Neither Atlantic Landscaping nor O’Halloran Machinery Transport would disclose how much Butt was charged.

For all the complaints, there was little to be done to lessen the traffic impact short of abandoning the project altogether.

The Motor Vehicle Division issued a permit, and State Police Lt. Wesley Hussey said he would have recommended against moving the tree at night because of safety concerns for the utility crews.

AP-ES-06-20-03 1026EDT

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