An old oak tree that arches over Music street in West Tisbury will be left alone despite its declining condition, selectmen decided this week. At their meeting Wednsday two selectmen took no action to remove all or part of the tree, opting instead to allow nature to take its course. Selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd was not present.

The issue came up earlier this month when West Tisbury tree warden Jeremiah Brown and streets superintendent Richard Olsen briefed selectmen about the tree, which is located on the east side of Music street near Middle Road. The tree is declining, Mr. Brown said, and he expects it to fail in the next three to five years. A central branch arches over the road, and has been struck several times by large vehicles, resulting in the loss of a sizable section of bark. Neighbors reported hearing the sound of the collisions from time to time, and the branch now bears bits of metal embedded in its trunk.

While neither Mr. Brown nor Mr. Olsen advocated for a specific course of action, a primary concern was the possibility that the arching limb could fall into the roadway if it were to fail, potentially injuring people and taking out power lines.

But advocates said the danger is not so imminent.

Debate about the tree soon broadened to include discussion about the character and identity of the town and the Island. For some, the tree came to represent the rural, natural, and historic aspects of the town, and the causes for removing it have come to represent unwelcome increases in traffic, commercialization and visitors.

“It’s not just one tree,” said Phyllis Meras, who lives on Music street and has been one of the tree’s most vocal advocates. “It’s the Vineyard: its charm, its beauty, everything is in its animals and birds and trees.” She said this is the second time removal has come up and she has spoken up publicly to defend the tree. The first time was about 10 years ago.

“I don’t want it to be destroyed to make room for the big buses and the big trucks,” Ms. Meras said.

At an earlier meeting selectmen ruled out removing the tree, but said they would consider the removal of the large limb that often gets hit.

On Wednesday this week Nancy Dole, a member of the town historic district commission, attended the selectmen’s meeting and said the commission should have a say in the event of serious alteration of the tree, a video of the meeting shows.

“We’re more interested in preserving the trees than preserving the trucks,” Ms. Dole said. “But we think you can do both without removing half of the tree.”

Selectmen agreed that the town should take a look at its tree management practices, including preservation of old trees and planting of new ones.