Massive oak tree at University of Tampa set for moving day

How do you pick up and move a 65-foot oak tree a distance of 400 feet without killing it? Very meticulously, as it turns out. This mammoth undertaking at the University of Tampa has been under way for about three months and will culminate in the short journey that begins Wednesday morning and is expected to take most of the day and possibly two. The tree, which has a trunk that's 3 feet in diameter, is being moved as site work continues on the new Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex at the university. The tree is now next to N Gilchrist Avenue, between A Street and W Kennedy Boulevard, right where a lacrosse field is planned. It will be moved about 400 feet to a site north of W Kennedy Boulevard, just east of the train tracks and west of N Newport Avenue.

The university hired Lake Worth-based South Coast Growers to move the tree. For the past three months, the company's workers have been pruning the tree's estimated 70-foot canopy and carefully hand digging the root system so that the tree could regrow a new root structure before the relocation.

Then over the past week, workers dug a trench around the tree's root ball. At a depth of 3 to 4 feet below the tree, they bored 12-inch holes and pushed steel I-beams into the holes. A steel sheet went on top of the I-beams to provide support. Then a hydraulic jack lifted the tree out of the ground and onto motorized dollies, which will take it to its new site.

Richard Bailey, the arborist for the project, said he has worked with the university to develop a five-year maintenance plan for the tree. He said he didn't know how old the tree is, absent an invasive procedure to find out.

The tree is not the first the university has moved. In 2000, it relocated two 50-foot oak trees to make room for the Vaughn Center. The trees are still alive and thriving on the edge of a Plant Hall parking lot.

Information from the University of Tampa website was used in this report.

How they do it

1. A hole large enough to expose the root system is dug around tree, and an arborist determines where to prune the roots.

2. I-beams are placed beneath roots and a steel plate is wedged between the roots and the I-beams.

3. Hydraulic pumps are used to lift the tree and a mechanized dolly is maneuvered underneath I-beams (see photo above).

Massive oak tree at University of Tampa set for moving day 05/15/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 1:16pm]

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