Following months of careful preparation, crews spent the weekend working to relocate a historic bur oak on the Ann Arbor campus.
The tree was moved to make way for an expansion at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. A new, larger building that will connect to existing buildings will be constructed on that site on the north side of the Ross School complex as part of a $135 million, donor-funded expansion at the school.
Workers spent Saturday morning inserting and inflating giant air bladders to lift the 700,000-pound package of tree and earth. Two transporters were then inserted to carry the tree 500 feet down Monroe Mall to the front of the Ross Building. The 250-year-old, 65-foot tree will establish new roots at the corner of Tappan and Monroe streets.
Dozens of interested community members gathered along the protective fencing and in windows to observe the process. As the tree began to move, onlookers began to cheer and applaud. The tree then traveled down Monroe Mall, where the crew secured it for the night.
On Sunday the giant air bladders were inserted back under the tree to lift it off the transporters, and it rolled towards its new location. As the crew rolled the tree down the ramp into the new location, one of the air bladders burst. There were no injuries and the tree was secured for the night. Crews slowly deflated and removed the remaining air bladders.
“I thought Saturday was going to be the more challenging of the two days but overall it went exactly as planned,” said Paul Cox, vice president of Environmental Design, the Texas-based company handling the relocation. “Unfortunately we had an air bladder burst late Sunday afternoon. The good news is that no one was hurt and the tree was not damaged.”
A crew from Environmental Design, which specializes in transplanting trees, has been preparing the bur oak for the last several months for its short move to its new location.
Cox said his company has been moving trees for 35 years. He said that while this is a large bur oak, this isn’t one of the largest his crew has tackled. The cost to relocate the tree is approximately $300,000-$400,000 and is part of the project costs for the Ross School expansion.
For the next several months, the university and Environmental Design will monitor the tree. The university horticulturist will send Cox and his team regular photos and soil updates as the tree settles into its new location. The tree will remain on a three-to-five-year maintenance program.
“I plan to pop in often and check in on what I’d like to call one of my patients. We’ll be back to see this one,” said Cox.