From Athens-Banner Herald
Recent storms and heavy winds claimed another tree victim: a 150-year-old Southern Red Oak on the campus of Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.
The nearly 100-foot tall tree was removed Monday after suffering a large, vertical split following a series of severe storms over Independence Day weekend. Those storms felled dozens of other trees and left nearly 20,000 residents without power in Athens.
“This tree was a great addition to Piedmont Athens Regional’s campus, and we wouldn’t have cut the tree down if it hadn’t been so compromised by the storm and such a danger to our patients, visitors and staff,” said Mike Carithers, Piedmont Athens Regional engineering manager.
Carithers added that removal was not the hospital’s first choice; several attempts were made to save the damaged tree.
“After having several arborists and tree removal companies in the Athens area come to inspect the tree, as well as having some of the tree’s limbs removed and attempting to pin the tree’s split together, it was determined that the tree could not be saved,” Carithers said about the oak that predates the founding of the hospital. “Piedmont Athens Regional made the decision to remove the tree for the hospital and community’s safety.”
The Athens-based New Urban Forestry removed the tree after the other options were exhausted.
“It’s frustrating losing an historic tree like this in a storm. Arborists like to think they can prevent these kinds of things,” said Art Morris, a master arborist and the general manager of New Urban Forestry. “But in this case, removal was really our only option.”
The removal process was a highly-synchronized job that required a team of six men and two cranes.
Starting at the top of the tree, two tree-trimmers dismantled the tree limb-by-limb. A large crane was on hand to slowly lower the branches to the ground, where other crewmen were waiting to feed them into a wood chipper.
“We often use cranes to aid the process, not only for reasons of low impact to the surroundings and structures, but also for safety and efficiency,” said New Urban Forestry co-owner Shawn Doonan.
He added that, ultimately, it was a defect in the tree that led to its downfall.
“A hundred and 40 years ago, it would have been a good idea to do a structure improvement on the tree,” Doonan said. “But it’s much too late for that now, unfortunately.”
A new tree will be planted to replace the old giant, Carithers said.