Auburn University begins planting descendants of original Auburn Oaks in Samford Park
Auburn University began planting descendants of the original Auburn Oaks today in historic Samford Park, which will complete a multiyear redevelopment project. Ten trees are being planted along a section of walkway reaching from Langdon Hall to Toomer's Corner.
The Samford Park redevelopment project began in 2013 after it was determined the original Auburn Oaks, poisoned in 2011, would not survive. Phase I of the project included removing contaminated soil, building a new seating area and planting two new oaks at Toomer's Corner. Phase II began in the summer of 2015 with installation of a 14-foot-wide walkway winding from Samford Hall to Toomer's Corner.
"Over the past three years Toomer's Corner and Samford Park have changed tremendously," said Ben Burmester, design project manager for Samford Park at Toomer's Corner Phases I and II, "so to see the vision of the park come together today is pretty great."
The descendent oaks are approximately 15 years old and 15 feet tall. In 2001, Scott Enebak, a faculty member in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, initiated a program to ensure the Auburn Oaks' legacy continues. Under his leadership, Forestry Club and Wildlife Society members cultivated acorns from the original trees and raised the descendants.
"I am pleased to see the descendants are returning to Samford Park where their parents stood for over 80 years," Enebak said. "As they grow, their branches will drape over the walkway creating a beautiful canopy for future generations of the Auburn Family to enjoy."
Members of the Auburn Family were given an opportunity to name a tree for themselves or someone of their choosing in recognition of a $50,000 philanthropic gift to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
The family of the late Auburn University President William Walker recently made a donation to have one of the descendant oaks named in memory of Walker, who died in 2007. They attended the planting of the trees Thursday and spoke of the special meaning of the oaks.
"My dad and I wanted to do something special for my mother-in-law and my husband, Forrest, for Christmas," said Brooke Walker, President Walker's daughter-in-law who had the idea to honor the former university president. "So when this came up we thought it was something special that we could do."
On Christmas morning, Forrest Walker, President Walker's son, and Myrna Walker, President Walker's widow, opened the plaque that would mark the tree in his honor.
"I didn't know what to say," Forrest Walker said. "I was kind of like, wow, this is truly unexpected."
Myrna Walker was also surprised. She said it was special because the descendant oaks wouldn't be planted now if it weren't for her husband, who had the idea to plant acorns from the original Toomer's Oaks.
"This means a lot to me because a lot of things that have happened on campus he started years ago," she said. "As they get completed, I think he would be really happy about that. It makes me proud."
Walker's family will be able to remember him and his legacy for generations to come through the Auburn Oaks descendant at Toomer's Corner named after him.
"This is one area where the entire Auburn Family comes together, so we thought this was the right way to remember my father-in-law," Brooke Walker said.
Four of the 10 trees have been named. The remaining six are available for naming in recognition of a philanthropic pledge of $50,000, which can be pledged over multiple years. These gifts will be invested as part of a larger endowed fund for excellence, with earnings providing support for emerging opportunities and urgent needs in the school. Following approval of each requested naming by Auburn's Board of Trustees, an engraved brass plaque on a granite plinth at the base of the tree will display the name or names of those for which the tree is named into perpetuity.
For additional information about this naming opportunity, contact the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Development Office at (334) 844-2791 or firstname.lastname@example.org.