She's 100 years old, perhaps even older. The old oak has lived out her days quietly, as trees do, until now.
It's moving day. The oak tree at the University of Tampa is off the ground and on a dolly. Her lifeline of roots is still in tact, thanks to a team of experts.
"The tree is irreplaceable. It's been here a lot longer than most of us have been here, so it's a benefit and of historic value to the city," said contractor Jon Bachmann of South Coast Grower.
UT has big plans to build a new athletic complex north of Kennedy Boulevard, on the west side of campus, right where the tree was. The facility will house lacrosse and other sports, and seat almost 1,500 spectators. It's a sign of the university's constant growth.
"Our enrollment has increased quite a bit, so we have more pressure on our current fields, for intramural use, for club sport use, so this will alleviate a lot of that pressure," said UT Spokesman Eric Cardenas.
The 256,000 pound tree is ever so carefully positioned on the dolly and on an intricately-constructed platform. The move is slow. Inch by inch, the oak tree is closer to her new home. It's a long 400 feet.
"If a screw breaks or you hit a low spot in the asphalt or the ground, it could really put the whole thing off kilter," said Bachmann.
One of the hardest things about moving this big old tree is getting it over a small hill. It takes careful work and safety chains attached to the tree, just in case.
The prep work began three months ago, pumping her with nutrients and water. Bailey says this type of oak can handle it.
"It's the live oak, which this oak is strong, long lived, and resistant to insects and disease," explained arborist Richard Bailey.
He says she could live a century more. The hope is that she doesn't even know what happened, although her perspective will be a bit different.
Cardenas says The Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex should open by spring of 2013. The complex is funded in part by Tampa's Naimoli family.
By the end of the work day Wednesday, work crews had moved the tree to its new location. It remained attached to its platform. Thursday, they will lower the tree back into the ground.
Bailey says he wrote a five year plan to monitor and take care of the oak.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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