Only in the tradition-rich town of Auburn could two trees mean so much to so many.
As a life-long Auburn fan and third generation Auburn University student, I believe I can speak for the entire Auburn Family that in 2011 our traditions were altered and changed forever. The Family learned that a man had poisoned our beloved trees and that they were dying. He did this in the name of rivalry. I won’t even address his name or this issue any further because we have moved on and grown stronger.
On Saturday, April 20, 2013, I gathered with thousands of the Auburn Family and said farewell to our mighty Toomer’s Oaks as we rolled them one last time. I will forever hold the memory with me and recount it for years to come. It looked like it was snowing in Auburn in April, there was so much toilet paper strewn everywhere. It was beautiful.
The rolling of Toomer’s Corner still continued even after the trees were gone, even after the dismal season of 2013. Every available tree was rolled and so were the newly added wires, but our hearts felt like something was missing and we knew it was the oaks.
Hope came with the renovation of Toomer’s Corner. New bricks were laid and the entire area where the trees once stood started to move forward and change. On Aug. 19, 2014, the construction fences around the Corner came down. Samford Park was ready.
It’s been almost four years to the day that we learned the Toomer’s Oaks had been poisoned, now we celebrate the arrival of two 35-foot oaks that will serve as the newest additions of the Auburn Family.
The trees will begin their implantation on Feb. 14, 2015 at 8 a.m. and the city is inviting the public to attend a day dedicated to the new trees and the return of Auburn Spirit. Downtown roads will be closed and stores will have earlier and extended hours to honor the occasion. Viewing stations will be set up and Valentine’s Day weekend in Auburn will be filled with even more love now that the trees are coming home.
The University has also announced the second phase of the Samford Park renovation that will include the planting of 30 live oaks that were grown from acorns taken from the original Auburn Oaks 12 years ago. The oaks are approximately 15-feet tall and will be planted along the walkway that connects Samford Hall to Toomer’s Corner.
Rolling of the new Auburn Oaks will not take place until fall of 2016 to allow the trees to acclimate and grow strong.
The city has created the hashtag, #ProtectTheOaks to encourage others to wait until the appropriate time to resume our beloved rolling tradition.
I will be in attendance on Saturday to watch the historic planting of our new Toomer’s Oaks where they rightly should be and will welcome them into the Auburn Family. Check back for pictures from the event.
Auburn University posted a photo on their Facebook page Thursday morning of the oaks prepping to come home to Auburn. The Oaks will be planted beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14 and should be completely planted by 2 p.m.
Today I was lucky enough to see the new Live Oaks in all of their glory. They were waiting to be planted and were bigger than I had even imagined. I was able to speak with Gary Keever, a professor of horticulture at Auburn and the main man in charge of the trees. There were actually three that made the drive from South Carolina to Auburn, the third will remain at the Department of Facilities Management in case something happens to the two Toomer’s Oaks.
“These are some very special trees we have here and tomorrow is a very special day, one we have waited four years for,” Keever said. “We went through a long process to try and save them then had to remove them and put new soil in, but the replantation is the final peg in this process of rebuilding.”
First, they had to decide on a species and they chose Live Oaks, the same species as the original Toomer’s Oaks. The trees were selected from a nursery in South Carolina that had over 9,000 trees living there.
“Three of us went up there and we were like kids in a candy store walking through all those trees for hours,” Keever said. “We tagged five trees, narrowed it down to three and that’s how we chose.”
The trees are approximately 15 to 20 years old and 35-feet tall and 30-feet wide. The root ball is 9-feet across. The trees will take approximately two hours per tree to plant.
“When moving 25 tons around there is a lot of uncertainty,” Keever said. “We’re just ready to have the beautiful plaza finished, all that was lacking was the trees. Once we add them to the corner it will look even better than before.