Auburn University announces plan to replace iconic oaks Feb. 14, 2015; will plant 30 descendant trees in 2016

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The Auburn University Board of Trustees on Friday approved initiation of the second phase of a plan to renovate Samford Park. The plan calls for 30 live oak trees, grown from acorns taken from the iconic Auburn Oaks 12 years ago and now 15 feet tall, to be planted along a new brick walkway that will connect Samford Hall to Toomer's Corner.

The university also announced that two large live oaks will be planted at the College Street and Magnolia Avenue intersection on Feb. 14, 2015, completing Phase I of the project.

"Our goal all along was to restore the corner with large trees at the earliest opportunity," said Dan King, assistant vice president for Facilities Management. "Last summer we completed the hardscape to improve aesthetics and the pedestrian experience. The only thing missing was the trees. We think this plan honors the tradition of the historic original oaks."

Earlier this year, Facilities Management contracted with a nursery owned by MeadWestvaco in Ehrhardt, South Carolina, to purchase, root prune and prep the new oak trees, both of which are approximately 35 feet tall and have about a 30-foot spread.

"By planting mature oaks, we hope to be able to resume the rolling tradition much sooner than we could if we planted younger trees," King said.

Rolling of the new trees will not be allowed for at least a year while the trees acclimate to their new environment and establish roots.

In 2012 the Committee to Study the Future of Rolling Toomer's Corner—a group of faculty, staff, students and alumni—recommended replacing the dying Auburn Oaks with one or more large trees. The committee surveyed more than 1,200 friends of the university who indicated their preference for the future of the corner.

Under Phase II of the Samford Park renovation, the university will plant 30 descendant Auburn Oaks between Toomer's Corner and Samford Hall. In 2002 the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences collected acorns from the Auburn Oaks, raised seedlings and planted them in an orchard on Auburn forest property.

"We planted the descendant trees 12 years ago thinking that if anything happened to the Auburn Oaks, we would have offspring of the originals to replace them," said Scott Enebak, professor of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. "The offspring trees are too small to go on the corner, but I'm pleased they'll be planted in Samford Park where their parents stood for more than 80 years."

"The foresight of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences has enabled Auburn University to develop a spirited design solution that will extend the legacy of the Auburn Oaks for generations," said Jim Carroll, university architect.

Phase II construction will begin next spring.

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