Heritage oak tree makes a big move this weekend

Work crews have cut a deep trench around the heritage live oak that is to be moved. Redevelopment of the north part of the state capitol complex is forcing its relocation.

Its trunk has a diameter of almost 40 inches and the tree stands 4 stories tall next to the LBJ Office building. It’s a lot to move. "With 350,000 pounds and moving it on air bags 5 feet at a time,” said Keith Mars. Mars, who heads up the city's Tree Preservation Division said this heavy lift is like a medical procedure. "For this big of a tree it is highly orchestrated well planned in advanced, very much a surgery,” said Mars.

The tree will be placed in the center of Waterloo Park.

The site has been fenced off for the past several years for the construction of the Waller Creek storm water in-take building and diversion tunnel. The new vision for the park is managed by the Waller Creek Conservancy. The oak will be part of a canopy providing cover for a network of trails, playgrounds and an amphitheater.

The goal, according to Peter Mullan who heads up the conservancy, is to re-open to the public by the summer of 2020. "This is symbolic of the kind of legacy we are trying to create for our community. And create a place that will serve generations, upon generations, upon generations,” said Mullan. 

To make sure the tree will be around for future generations to see, special steps are planned for its post trip recovery. Pruning and root trimming was done before the oak wilt season began. "Just like a patent recover, the post-surgery move is incredibly important. So there will be watering, monitoring, possibly fertilization pruning, making sure irrigation lines are in place,” said Mars.

Relocating the tree is certainly a big step in completing the park, but its just a step in completing the overall vision. There is still a lot of work to be done downstream.

The idea is to redevelop Waller Creek from 15th Street all the way to Lady Bird Lake. "We are almost funded on Waterloo Park, we've got a little bit to raise there, but this is a big vision and we are going to need the whole city to be a part of it,” said Mullan. 

First the tree must arrive and be planted. The relocation job is expected to start Sunday morning around 9:00 with the big oak rolling in between 1 and 3:00 p.m.