Moving a Large Tree

Tree Preservation Takes Root with Oak’s Transplant


A 50-inch diameter live oak is saved from destruction by being moved out the the planned driveway to the buffer area next to the property line

A 50-inch diameter live oak is saved from destruction by being moved out the the planned driveway to the buffer area next to the property line

By NICOLE SERVICE
Staff Writer, Daytona News Journal

April 9, 2005
(photos and captions are by Chuck Lippi and were not part of the newspaper article)

THE HAMMOCK — Some developers would find it easier to cut down a giant 100-year-old oak than move it out of the path of their project.

After all, it’s an expensive proposition costing $30,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s also time-consuming, taking about 10 days, and the probability of the tree surviving the move is usually low.

A large backhoe digs out the rootball by first removing soil from the sides of the rootball and lowering the level of the surrounding soil.

A large backhoe digs out the rootball by first removing soil from the sides of the rootball and lowering the level of the surrounding soil.

But a persistent property owner who believes in the value of saving old trees convinced Continental Properties, developing a Publix along State Road A1A and 16th Road, to move instead of destroy a majestic live oak standing in the way of progress.By this weekend, the tree will be 30 feet from where it spent its long life — just far enough to be out of the path of a proposed driveway.

“It’s a bit unusual and unique,” said Tom Gay project manager with McIntryer Elwell & Stammer, the general contractors. “I have been in this business 25 years and I have never seen anything like this before.”

So how does one move an oak with a 50-inch-diameter trunk?

The experts at Davey Large Tree Moving readied the tree Friday to be uprooted using four giant jacks with large beams capable of lifting 800,000 pounds.The slow process involves hand-excavating, shaping and encapsulating the tree’s root area in burlap and wire. Workers then drive pipes beneath the bottom of the tree’s root ball to create a structural bottom with steel beam, which is used to lift the tree out of its hole.

“All we do is move trees. If God can grow it, we can move it,” said Jason Williams, the main office’s assistant manager in Texas.

He estimated the costs for moving the Hammock tree at $30,000, and said though some projects cost more than $100,000, he finds it’s a growing trend with developers willing to preserve trees.

The rootball is then wrapped with wire mesh and burlap so soil will not crumble and fall away from the roots.

The rootball is then wrapped with wire mesh and burlap so soil will not crumble and fall away from the roots.

He said the company moves about 15 large trees a year, with Wal-Mart as one of its biggest customers.Although this was the first time he had seen it done, project manager Gay also believed there is a growing trend toward preservation. “More and more people are doing it,” Gay said. “It’s something that has to be done as more people move into the state.”

Friday night, workers had the tree wrapped up like a giant potted plant, which was how property owner Rosemary Meyers described it. The actual moving and replanting won’t happen until either late today or early Sunday.

Meyers is leasing the land to the developers. Everyone from the contractor to county employees said it was because of Meyers that so many trees on the property were saved, especially the oak, which isn’t the largest tree on the property. There are three oaks with 60-inch trunks.

“She was insistent about it,” Gay said. “She kept telling us to do all we could.”

Meyers said tree preservation is important to her. “When you cut down a 100-year-old oak tree, it can’t be replaced,” she said. She goes out to the property daily to watch the tree-moving process. “It’s amazing to watch,” she said. She added that she hopes this project will act as a model for future projects.

Six-inch steel pipes are forced beneath the rootball one pipe at a time.

Six-inch steel pipes are forced beneath the rootball one pipe at a time.

Another factor that went into saving the tree was an ordinance aimed at protecting the county’s designated Scenic Highway S.R. A1A tree canopy.It requires that 50 percent of a property’s tree canopy be saved, which is usually an encouragement to save the largest trees, said Walter Fufidio, the county’s planning director.

Tim Telfer, the county’s environmental planner, said the Publix project is the first use of the S.R. A1A land-clearing and tree-protection ordinance adopted last year. He said it was a good first application. “It’s kind of a test project for us,” Telfer said. “And what we see here is a site, that’s when it’s fully developed, is going to house a small Publix and a bank, but still retain the old growth that’s existing on site.”

Chuck Lippi, a St. Augustine arborist who is consulting on the project, says the tree has better than a 50 percent survival rate. “That isn’t very good,” Lippi said. “It’s still better than the earlier prognosis for the tree. If we had done nothing, it would have died for sure. “Williams is a bit more optimistic, giving it a 90 percent chance. He said they’ll be doing some “pretty extreme” maintenance to help the tree along, such as irrigating its canopy.

Gay is also rooting for the tree. “A lot of effort has gone into saving it. I hope it survives,” he said. “All we can do is hope for the best.”

A large beam in inserted beneath the pipe base so the 100,000 lb. tree and rootball can be lifted by the hydraulic jacks. The four hydraulic jacks then ride on the beam to the tree’s new location.

A large beam in inserted beneath the pipe base so the 100,000 lb. tree and rootball can be lifted by the hydraulic jacks. The four hydraulic jacks then ride on the beam to the tree’s new location.

Arborist Note


Although I was enthusiastic about moving the tree, the timing of the move and the rootball size, in my opinion, were less than optimal. The developer, who was planning to cut the tree down during the the initial stages of construction, decided rather suddenly to retain the tree and move it 45 feet out of the entrance road. It was April and the tree was just about to flush out its new spring growth. And there was no time for pre-digging root pruning. Furthermore, the negotiated rootball size that would be cut for the tree was reduced for economic reasons from 30 feet in diameter to 24 feet in diameter. But we had to work with the situation we had. We aggressively irrigated the tree to help it recover and become established. Water was added to the rootball three times a day for the following six months and irrigation sprinklers were installed in the canopy to wet the foliage three times during the warmest part of the day and reduce water loss through evapotranspiration. In 2015 the tree is doing fine with no noticeable thinning of the foliage or branch dieback. — Chuck Lippi