For the neighborhood kids the Shackleford's tree house represented many childhood dreams and a lot of fun times with friends. On Saturday, Brian Shackleford was given a special release from a treatment center to come home and tear down the tree house that he and his children had worked so hard to build.
According to Highland City Council, the tree house was not up to code for the city of Highland and according to an ordinance, was too close to the road and posed a safety hazard. Since the tree house was built within a tree, it was impossible to move and the Shacklefords were forced to tear it down. Melissa Shackleford said the letter received from the city council said that the structure had to be at least 25 feet from the right of way. City attorney Jon Abele told the Shacklefords to measure from the center of the road. This distance was 35 feet from Terry Shackleford's measurement, although the other measurement by a representative of the city fell less than the 25 feet required.
Melissa Shackleford said that although she had 10 days to file an appeal, the legal verbage contained within the letter was very confusing to the average person and required a lot of paperwork for which she did not have access, since she did not hold the title to the home or land and was buying it from an individual.
She further stated that the letter took a day to get there and when she inquired about the paperwork for the appeal, she was told that they didn't have the forms in the office and could get them the next day. This immediately took her opportunity for appeal down to eight days. This, coupled with the breakup of their lives due to her husband's recent arrest and subsequent treatment, made it nearly impossible for the family to be present at the required meetings and to "jump through the hoops they wanted," she said.
The attractive tree house with a green roof sat at the edge of the Shackleford's fenced property and was a play haven for neighborhood children.
In the dreary rain, Brian Shackleford and four boys who had stayed overnight to help with the destruction began the process of tearing down the kid's play area. Eli Sisco, Tristin Wiles, Zachary Cooper and Jacob Sisco worked together with hammers and crow bars in an effort to satisfy City Hall with the destruction of the tree house.
Nursing her daughter Gracie's injured hand, Melissa Shackleford said, "The kids have got hurt more tearing it down than they ever did while it was up." The structure was so well built that the use of a four-wheel drive truck was needed to pull a portion of it to the ground.
"This is the only place my kids had to play." Brian Shackleford said referring to the very small size of their yard with only one tree on which to build the house. He sadly recalled building the house and adding onto it for the children. He spoke of the things that his son and daughter told him after the destruction.
"To my son, that tree house was a space ship that could take him to the moon, a ship to play pirates and fight Thor; and to my daughter, it was her castle, where she was the princess ... that just broke my heart." To these kids, it is obvious that this was far more than a structure housed in a tree.
While the structure is not completely torn down due to the continuous rain over the weekend, a large portion of the children's play area lies in wet ruins beneath the strong tree where it once stood. Melissa Shackleford said, "I just hope it makes Highland a better place now that there is one less tree house and now people won't be offended when driving by." The sadness could be felt throughout the family as the Shackleford's son Eli said, "It made me so sad when we had to tear it down."