Covington city employees managed to save the annual Christmas tree lighting Saturday night, but not the tree itself after vandals allegedly tried to chop it down early in the morning.

The tree was installed after a larger tree was removed five years ago to make way for a parking lot. It was just minutes from being sawed down early Saturday by vandals, according to the city.

It s a shame that somebody went to that trouble to do something to the community that everybody cares so much about, said city arborist Bill Fealy.

Fealy was the first person to respond to the tree, which is located next to Fred Meyer in Covington. He said if the wind had picked up, the tree likely would have fallen down. Instead, he and his crew stabilized the tree in time for Saturday night s lighting ceremony.

It gives you a great sense of feeling, Fealy said, We were able to prevent the vandals from ruining Christmas.

The tree sits in a roundabout dedicated to the late Don Henning, a former city councilman. Covington Police are investigating the vandalism. The suspect left behind a sign that, according to varying accounts, read This is not the real Christmas tree .

Despite saving the tree for the lighting ceremony, soon after the lights were turned on it came down. City officials determined that it was too unstable to stay up.

Hours after saving the tree, Fealy helped cut it to the ground, then chopped it into pieces. Covington plans to put a new tree in its place for the remainder of the holiday season.

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