- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

NORTH CANTON, Ohio (AP) - A northeast Ohio man who has proudly brought guests to see what’s considered the world’s oldest cucumber magnolia tree has become the target of criticism from residents who don’t want him bringing people inside their gated community.

The 435-year-old tree sits on common ground within the Auburn Knolls community in North Canton and W. Roderic Covey, a resident of the community, has worked to protect and promote the tree, The Repository in Canton reported (bit.ly/1O9rax7).

Covey said that he has shown the tree to at least 1,800 people from nine countries and 11 states over the last three decades.

“People here know that the tree is a valuable asset to this community, to this county, to this city and to the world,” Covey, 86, said. “It really is a special gift from God.”

But the attention Covey has given to the tree has created friction with the board of the Auburn Knolls Consolidated Condominium Association.

Former Board President Bob Carncross told the Akron Beacon Journal in September that the board was considering legal action against Covey for giving the gate access code to unaccompanied guests. Carncross declined to comment to The Repository.

Erika Finley, an attorney representing the association, said the conflict with Covey had been resolved.

Covey denied giving the gate access code to unaccompanied guests and said those who come to see the tree are in Auburn Knolls as his guests.

“No one ever comes in and wanders around,” he said. “They come in at my behest or my invitation, or they call and ask (to see it) and I say, ‘of course.’”

North Canton police responded in October for a complaint about trespassers in the community and spoke with Covey, who was showing the tree to a group, according to police reports.

Officers haven’t told Covey’s visitors to leave and haven’t escorted them from the property, according to Police Chief Stephan Wilder.

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Information from: The Repository, https://www.cantonrep.com

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