Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Efforts to preserve what one news writer dubbed "the most fought-over tree in Lexington" have earned Ball Homes the 2014 Environmental Commission Award, and tree preservationists hope it may serve as a model for future developments. The Lexington-Fayette Environmental Commission announced the award in November, citing planning and preservation efforts by Ball Homes during the development of a 25-acre tract of land off Harrodsburg Road near Military Pike that is home to the giant bur oak tree.
A long-term plan to protect and preserve the tree was developed by Ball Homes in conjunction with Ian Hoffman, President of Big Beaver Tree Service, and Tom Kimmerer of Venerable Trees, Inc. Before securing approval to develop the area, the company created a plan based around the tree's needs that would return the tree to healthy environmental conditions, protect it during development, and provide for its future care. As a protected part of the new residential community of single family homes and apartments, the massive oak will be the focal point and signature feature of the neighborhood.
The age of the tree has been estimated at 300 to 500 hundred years. It is a species that thrives in Central Kentucky conditions, but has become increasingly rare as it does not thrive in urban conditions, and younger trees are not growing up to replace the older ones. Described as "the oldest living things in Kentucky" by Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen, the trees often dominate the landscape because of their size, making them "icons of the Bluegrass landscape."
In part because of its highly visible location, the ancient bur oak tree on Old Schoolhouse Lane has been the subject of much public discussion, and an earlier proposal by another developer that placed the tree at risk for loss or damage was rejected by the city.
In fact, it was already threatened by soil compaction from an existing driveway that remained from a now-demolished residence built in the 1970's. First steps to protect the tree involved pruning, removing brush from around it, and removing the driveway. A temporary fence to keep construction at least 72 feet away from the tree was installed, and six inches of wood mulch placed. Going forward, approximately 3/4 of an acre has been dedicated to the tree's preservation, and Ball Homes plans to retain ownership of that portion of the property.
Tom Kimmerer of Venerable Trees suggests that the tree care plan developed for Ball Homes could become a model for preserving other ancient trees in the Bluegrass. Read more about the story of the Schoolhouse Oak's conservation in Tom Eblen's Lexington Herald-Leader feature.
Photo courtesy of the Lexington Herald-Leader