This is a story of heroic adventure and preserving a great treasure.
I knew it was going to be a day of discovery when I arrived on the scene on a Tuesday morning, just as they unearthed the behemoth. (I've posted a few photos and have also shot a quick video of moving day, and yes, I'm a fan of 80s rock.)
Davey arborists had carefully used tools of all shapes and sizes to capture 40 percent of the giant root ball that belonged to a Black Tupelo tree, commonly known as Black Gum. It took three days to encase the sinewy snakes that made up the roots. The careful and extensive digging almost made it seem as if they were going to stumble upon a lost tomb or prehistoric fossil.
A tree of this size always has special meaning, and for those at Bridgestone Americas, a special story. It was planted during the 50-year anniversary celebration of the company 60 years ago in a plaza built around a larger than life statue of Harvey Firestone, founder of the Firestone Rubber & Tire Co. that Bridgestone Americas purchased in 1988. To them, the tree, along with its partner flanking the other side of the monument, are historic treasures well worth preserving.
The crew lifted the 26-inch trunk, 85-ton (170,000-pound) tree using a gantry system, which can move trees with trunks far exceeding 24 inches in diameter and weighing more than 800,000 pounds. But the site conditions on this property - sloping, soft ground - meant traditional large, heavy cranes wouldn't work as smoothly. A lot of times, side or overhead obstacles like telephone wires prevent other equipment from getting into a space. That's where the gantry system is unique - it is a more portable, four-point lifting system that a crew can assemble around a heavy load and then elevate with greater ease and safety. It took about two days to lift the tree, load it on the trailer and move it into position. Then it took another half a day to backfill and dress the tree. The slow, careful precision, reminded me that large trees like this really are of great value, both environmentally and in terms of the memories they offer. It was like the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when they come upon the golden ark and then reverentially move it little by little to its final destination.
For the first 12 to 24 months, a maintenance and monitoring program will see the tree through its most critical care mode after the move. And then an additional two to three years of close monitoring will be required. The total preservation and recovery process for the tree to reestablish itself in its new home is five years.
And it's worth it because of the many environmental benefits a tree this large provides. You can't, for instance, replace a 26-inch diameter tree with 26 1-inch caliper trees. It isn't a one-to-one oxygen exchange.
Of course tree preservation doesn't always have to be dramatic, something I remind myself of each time I water the 4' tall Washington Hawthorn I just planted. Until our next adventure in tree preservation … where I'll make sure to bring a leather jacket, hat and bull whip along for the journey.
"Think you're a big fan of trees? We'd love to hear about it. Send your thoughts to Dave or Daphne at firstname.lastname@example.org ."