When we talk about moving, a quarter of a mile from one home to another doesn’t seem like much. That is unless you are about 105 years old, have a storied beginning, are over ten stories tall and weigh in excess of 800,000 pounds, considered a local landmark and are a sequoia tree.
Saint Luke’s Health System in Boise, Idaho found that in the way of their expansion was a tree not only of great size but also grew from a seedling provided by John Muir, co-founder of the Sierra Club. With a life expectancy of over 500 years it was clear that this esteemed old resident needed a new place to root in the community. A new site was found a Fort Boise Park a mere 1320 feet from its current location. The move started in October of 2016 and ended in June of 2017 and will be closely monitored for the next five years by the park service.
Texas-based Environmental Design was engaged to make the move using a scooping and lifting technology that they have patented, though this was their largest undertaking yet.
Starting in October of 2016 a trench was dug and the sequoia’s roots trimmed to a radius of 20-25 feet. Then a watering plan was initiated that would help the roots heal and stop growing in anticipation of the actual move that was set for spring 2017.
Time to Roll
In June of 2017 a distance that on foot takes just a few minutes started just after midnight and ended 10 hours later and about 1320 feet from where it began. Beneath the root ball a platform of steel rods measuring 7 inches in diameter and 44’ long was installed and below that a set of 3 hot dog shaped uninflated air bags. A shallow ramp was dug and it was time to roll.
It took the team about 15 minutes to inflate the airbags and raise the root ball to the ground level. Air was let out of the front air bag allowing the platform to roll up the ramp and out of the hole while keeping it level. Chains anchored the root ball to the platform and the team moved the back airbag to the front and repeated the process for several hours with the tree creeping a 10 to 12 feet at a time.
Home Sweet Home
Finally, the honored resident of Boise was gently lowered into the newly prepared home complete with soil brought in from its previous residence, the airbags deflated and a crew spent another few days leveling it, all to help the tree adjust to the new location. Though the process doesn’t end here. Monitoring by the park service will include site tubes, drainage structures, with a close eye on irrigation. Environmental Design will help the tree get re-established until 2022.
As a spokesperson for the hospital said cutting the tree down “was never an option”. Testimonial to that is the sequoia happily adjusting to its home just 1320 feet from the ground it was in as a seedling planted in 1912.