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Giant tree slated for relocation Thursday in downtown park

Moving super-sized live oak requires monumental effort

SAN ANTONIO, TX – It’s a big job, and someone is doing it.

Specifically, contractors are making preparations to move a super-sized tree from its location near a downtown street to a plot of land that is the site of the future Hemisfair Civic Park.

The 70-year-old, 122,000-pound live oak is one of dozens that will be relocated and, in the process, rescued from the path of destruction.

The land on which the trees sit, adjacent to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, is being cleared out for the new park and much more.

“Ultimately, there will be a large underground garage at this location,” said senior project manager Gary Boyd, pointing to an area of the land closest to Market Street.

Plans also call for a hotel, outdoor concert space to hold more than 10,000 people, a high-rise apartment building and a tree-lined promenade with a park containing water works.

Boyd, who is a San Antonio history buff, said he had a keen interest in overseeing the project.

It not only allows him to steer a big part of the city’s future, but also preserve a piece of its past.

“(The trees) were planted by men, and so I feel responsible, then, for moving them,” he said.

The relocation project of one tree, scheduled for Thursday, could take all day.

Work has already begun to uproot it.

GALLERY: Giant tree to be relocated in downtown park

Boyd said metal pipes that were driven into the ground will act as a platform underneath the entire root ball of the tree.

All of that will rest on top of air-filled, rubber, log-shaped tubes.

Heavy equipment, including a front loader, will then slowly pull the whole rig to a site about 300 feet away.

“It's very much like the Egyptians using logs to roll large stone blocks and things,” Boyd said. “This technology really improves the survivability of the tree.”

The task is monumental and involves many people, and not to mention, lots of money.

“When we cried out for help to help us save these trees at Hemisfair, the community really stepped up,” said Anne Krause, the executive director of the Hemisfair Conservancy.

The organization is the philanthropic arm of the overall project, raising money to improve and expand the Hemisfair Park grounds.

“We had gifts ranging from $8 all the way up to $400,000,” she said.

Krause said one of the  largest donations for the tree relocation project so far has come from Flora Cameron Crichton, who, in 1968, also made possible a giant mural on the side of the convention center.

Other major donors for the project were Amy Shelton McNutt Charitable Trust, Beldon Roofing Company, Mays Family Foundation, The Alfred S. Gage Foundation, The Burdine Johnson Foundation, Craig & Shari Leighton, The Steves Foundation and William and Salomé Scanlan Foundation.

Eighteen trees will have been moved by the end of this year at a cost of about $550,000.

However, the plans call for relocating 31 trees in all, Krause said.

More than 200 others will be purchased and placed in the park.

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