Community reluctantly bidding farewell to 600-year-old tree

Posted April 28, 2017

The removal work drew lots of attention from residents of a bedroom community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of NY and other tree fans who saw it as a chance to bid a final farewell to their close friend.

The 600-year-old white oak in Basking Ridge, N.J. was declared dead last year and crews started to cut it down on Monday.

The tree's pending removal is a reminder of how older trees are starting to become less common across the nation.

It will take a few days to cut down the tree, which is 18 feet around and has a branch spread of roughly 150 feet wide.

The tree had stood for three centuries when the founders of Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church chose to build the first church, a long cabin, by it in 1717.

For hundreds of years, the imposing white oak tree has watched over the community and church, providing protection from the blazing summer sun, serving as a scenic backdrop for thousands of photos and - according to legend - Gen George Washington held a picnic with the Marquis de Lafayette at the site.

The great white oak was planted on the north end of the church property while the ancient tree is located on the south end.

The church was built in 1717, and the tree was there before Columbus.

Its death was probably because of its age. Arborists say that the removal is necessary because it would have fallen of its own accord during the coming winters or spring storms.

'Yeah, no one thought about the tree dying.

Klippel said they are prepared for some surprises, including 3 tons of concrete somewhere in the tree originally to help preserve it.

Residents said they were said to see the tree come down but understand why.

"It'll be an empty feeling, very different", said Jann Slapin of Basking Ridge, who has been a member of the church for 28 years and arrived at 8 a.m.to witness the cutting off of the first branch.

Even though the town has known for many months the tree would soon be gone, that doesn't make its coming absence any easier, Malay observed. They note that several factors — including droughts, intensive wildfires and invasive insects — can greatly harm trees, which become more susceptible to damage as they age.

The church will keep the tree's stump and memorialize its life with a plaque. It now stands about 20 feet tall.