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By: DONATHAN PRATER | Opelika Auburn News Published: January 06, 2012
As returning Auburn University students settle into their new digs and resume classes next week, a few current residents of the campus will still be settling into their new homes.
In a project overseen by AU Facilities Management, eight large trees — including six Burr oaks, one Nuttall oak and a Winged elm — are being moved from the site of the recently demolished Fisheries Annex, clearing the way for the construction of the new Department of Kinesiology building.
“These trees are part of the university’s effort to preserve a valuable resource,” said Dr. Gary Keever, an AU horticulture professor. “These trees are by far the largest to ever have been moved on this campus.”
The site on which the new Kinesiology building will sit will have its grading taken down approximately eight feet, which prompted officials to make the decision to move the trees.
“None of these trees would have survived the site work,” Keever said.
Keever estimated that the trees are between 30 and 40 years old.
For a number of years, AU has made concerted efforts to save trees that are located on campus construction sites.
Some of the trees had root balls ranging in weights from 65,000 pounds to more than 125,000 pounds. They were dug up using a 128-inch tree spade and lifted onto trucks with cranes.
The remaining trees slated to be relocated are being dug up by hand by Environmental Design, a Texas-based company specializing in the transplantation of large trees. David Dowden, a project manager with Environmental Design, hopes to have all the trees transplanted this weekend.
On Thursday, two of the Burr oaks were moved to locations further west off Wire Road, Keever said. The Nuttall oak will be relocated along Heisman Drive, while the Winged elm will be planted on Wire Road.
Work preparing the trees to be relocated began in December 2011, Keever said.
After the trees and their complex root systems are unearthed, oil drilling pipe is placed underneath to form a platform, and their root balls are shaped and wrapped in burlap and metal fencing to protect them and keep them from becoming dehydrated, Keever said.
Because of the size of their root systems, the trees will leaf out in the spring and grow this coming season, Keever said. However, he said they won’t grow as vigorously.
“Transplanting is stressful and a portion of the trees’ root systems are left in the ground, but root regeneration will begin fairly quickly,” said Keever, who added that it will probably be around three years before the trees resume normal growth.