Large pipes support the root ball

Several large pipes support the weight of the tree's root ball.

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

Crews move the pine tree using a large truck.

The tree moves down Wolfe Street on the bed of a large truck.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Residential Housing

The tree is lowered into the new location.

A crane lowers the tree into the new location.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Residential Housing

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State Champion Virginia Pine Tree relocated from construction site [VIDEO]

Crews use giant crane to move huge tree

Crews move the giant pine tree using cranes. Video by: University Communications and Marketing

A 79-foot tall pine tree that once stood shading the playground at the site of the old Wolfe Street apartments on the Athens Campus now embellishes the landscape some 225 feet away near Morton Hall.

On Friday, June 28, Crews with Perfection Tree Experts, LLC moved the State Champion Virginia Pine Tree, which weighs approximately 166,000 pounds and has a trunk diameter of 30 inches at breast height. The move came after it was discovered the noteworthy tree was standing in the midst of a portion of campus included in Phase 1 of the University's Housing Development Plan.

"The relocation is a conservation effort," said Mark Whitney, landscape planner and project manager in the University's Design and Construction department.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the tree is the largest of its kind in the state of Ohio. It is listed on the ODNR website as a 2012 Ohio Champion Tree in the Native or Naturalized US category. Brian Riley, a former ODNR employee, nominated the tree in 2005.

Whitney coordinated the pine tree's relocation and says preparations for the big move started two months before a giant crane could lift the tree out of the ground.

Some of those pre-move activities included:

- Exploratory digging to establish the root ball size.

- Root pruning to encourage new root growth within the root ball. "It softens the blow and allows the tree to develop new roots within the new root ball," Whitney said.

- Injection of beneficial fungi into the soil.

- Supplemental watering by Grounds Department employees.

- Selective pruning to ensure structure and weight balance.

- Shoring of steam tunnels beneath Race Street and Wolfe Street to bear the weight of the tree, truck and rigging (approximately 300,000 pounds).

Crews strategically slid about two dozen large pipes under the root ball of tree and attached steel beams to the pipes. Heavy duty chains secured the piped base to the tree to support the root ball once it was lifted from the ground.

With so much preparation behind them, when the time came to actually move the huge tree, Perfection Tree Experts co-owner John Locke forecasted a good outcome.

"I think it's going to do great. All the moves that we do, we're in the high 90s, 95 percent success rate," Locke said. He says a great deal of the post-move health of the tree depends on the care the specimen receives after transplantation.

"It surprises everyone that these companies that do this…they all are very confident in the success of the moves," Whitney said.

Now that the tree is stabilized in the new location, Whitney says grounds crews will use moisture sensors to keep tabs on the soil conditions and will perform supplemental watering. The large guy wires which stabilize the tree some 30 feet from the trunk may stay in place for three years.