The removal of the Great Oak
Over the course of three days in April of 2017 the majestic white oak was carefully dismantled and removed from it's home in the center of the town that grew up around it.
Statement from Keith Keiling, owner of Keiling Tree Care on the planning that led up to the removal
This has been a long journey starting with the initial contact in September 2015. I was contacted by the church to address a failed limb late on a Friday afternoon. That began my involvement with this historic tree. Although my children attended the Treehouse Preschool and I had walked under its mighty limbs numerous times the scale and grandeur of the historic oak was imprinted on me that day. After two years of watching the tree through the seasonal changes, discussing it with experts in the field of arboriculture, and sadly watching it take a significant decline in the summer of 2016 it has become obvious to all that it is no longer safe to leave it standing in the church yard. It’s a project that is both challenging and exhilarating while shrouded in a somber air of loss.
The sheer size of the tree makes this project difficult but in addition to the size there are several other obstacles to overcome to safely remove the tree. Over the last century 1135 feet of steel cabling, 165 feet of steel rods, 3 tons of concrete, three props, and lightening protection have been installed in the tree that will have to be worked around. The site is only accessible by the main street through town and ancient gravestones lie
beneath the massive limbs between the tree and the road. The first pastors of the church, revolutionary war soldiers, and other prominent citizens in the history of Basking Ridge are buried in the church’s yard and in some places only separated by a few feet. Every piece must go up and out being careful not to knock power lines or drop anything on the gravestones below. All that and the knowledge that there could be a large crowd witnessing the work along with 2 film documentary crews and numerous media outlets.
Planning has taken about 6 months and have attended to every detail so the work goes off without any damage or injury. We’ve done tomographs to identify where we can make major cuts without grinding into steel or concrete. Additionally, we’ve done ground and aerial inspections to gauge which cables may be supporting loads and the best order to remove the massive limbs. Our first cut will be 60 feet above ground and into a 25 inch diameter limb.
The heavy lifting will be with Garton’s 180 ton crane and Rick Yoos will supply the knuckle boom to move Rob Gillies, senior tree climber for Keiling Tree Care, around the tree. Keiling Tree Care will have a bucket truck and trailer there to handle the cable and lightening protection as it is removed. Everything will be taken off site by Dave Schneck with the exception of the main trunk which will be taken to Pollaro Custom Furniture Inc.