Barnhart Moves 100 year-old Live Oaks

Jun 25, 2008

June 25, 2008

By April Reynolds

When it came time for Live Oak Retirement Community to grow, expansion did not mean losing its signature, more than two-decade-old live oak trees.

The retirement community, a part of Willis-Knighton Health System, is in store for great renovations, announced at Live Oak's 25th anniversary celebration in 2007. To open up accessibility to the center and prepare for the new era at Live Oak, the current drive up is also being expanded.

In the process, Live Oak would have to destroy the already-in-place 10 oak trees planted approximately 25 years ago. However, to honor the legacy in place, relocation proved the best option.

"The name of the place is Live Oak, so they planted live oaks along the path," Assistant Administrator Darrell Rebouche said. "The trees were planted as a part of the Live Oak legacy 26 years ago.

"So in order to preserve the Live Oak legacy, we decided to relocate the Oak trees."

Relocation commenced the day after Memorial Day and ended June 14, with work taking place in intervals. After an almost month-long process, Live Oak retains its signature oak trees, now replanted to shape the new entrance. "This is one of the first steps in the first phases of development."

Rebouche said relocation started with uprooting each individual tree — a daylong process done by hand in order to preserve as much of the root structure as possible. About six workers were used to dig out each tree. "They dig by hand," he said. "They painstakingly uprooted each tree."

Bud Kingcaid, supervisor with W.W. Tree Farms of Dallas, said after digging out each tree and root structure, burlap and wire were used to secure.

"Once we have everything dug and burlaped, we get the crane in," he said the crane then lifts the trees for relocation. "And we just move the tree."

Kingcaid said the new holes were already dug before the trees were moved. The holes were 15 feet across to accommodate the trees, which measure 225 inches around the root ball. Kingcaid said workers measure the trunk to determine the size of the root ball, which in turn determines the size of the hole needed for planting.

And when moving each tree, he said 10-ton weights were needed to balance the 165-ton cranes used for relocation.

Kenneth Daniel, supervisor of Barnhart Crane and Rigging, said about two or three of the oaks weighed 115,000-125,000 pounds, while some of the largest weighed 135,000-140,000 pounds.

"We lift and set, lift and set," Daniel said.

Kingcaid said there's a certain risk of shock to trees any time they are moved and replanted. However, of Live Oak's 10 oak trees he said, "These will do well."

Kingcaid said the trees will have to be watered for a year, maybe daily at first and every other day as the summer continues. After a year, he said watering can return to natural watering only.

"It's like babysitting a house plant. You have to have a green thumb," Daniel said.

Also, Kingcaid said pumps were built into each of the new holes where trees were replanted. He said if too much water gets into area, the effect would be like drowning a tree.

"The water will tend to fill up the hole, and the pumps will turn on and pump the water out of the hole," he said. "You want water, but not too much water."

Kingcaid said some trees had been moved on June 9 and the pumps were not installed yet. However, the storms didn't affect the trees. He said that one time of heavy rains didn't damage the trees.

Over the weeks, Rebouche said the tree relocation process became a spectator sport.

"It was really something to see. People came, parked their cars and watched," he said. "There was a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of manpower. It was fascinating to watch."

Rebouche said a four-story residential tower and chapel are among the coming additions at Live Oak.

"They're really going to raise the aesthetic level," he said.

Rebouche described the center as a quarter of a century old, with a great history thus far. The hope is to only improve the retirement facility for many more years to come.

"We believe at Willis-Knighton it will be that much better," Rebouche said of Live Oak, post expansion and renovation.

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