MOVING DAY, 07.12.14:
What was impossible last September has become possible and is occurring now thanks to many, many people who care for this tree and want it to live! The transplanting of the Taco Bell tree, the heritage tree at Oak Hill, has been confirmed for this morning. The Austin Heritage Tree Foundation (AHTF) needs to raise an additional $5000 for higher-than-estimated traffic control expenses and for the first year of post care (water, meter, pest control, soil aeration). The fund will remain open until we reach that goal. Please, donate.
The tree has responded very well to the root pruning, that was necessary to transplant it. It's canopy is very dark green and happy. The roots were pruned vertically and the root ball was encapsulated to prevent the roots from breaking. The tree has been watered deeply for the last few weeks, to encourage new root growth. Now, the roots are being cut horizontally with sharp pipes inserted into the soil.
AHTF hired the most experienced giant tree moving company in Austin, Environmental Design (Jon Hillis, local VP), and Guy Leblanc, certified arborist, is monitoring its health. Keith Brown, certified arborist, donates all the pruning necessary. John Dromgoole from the Natural Gardener has donated Sylvan formula, a compost and mulch mix that is excellent for trees.
This heritage tree is a tough survivor and a very lucky tree that is very loved by many in the community. We thank everyone who helped, including our excellent technical team, our contractors, TxDOT, the City of Austin Arborist Office, the City's Water and Transportation Departments, Austin's City Council, Austin's Urban Forestry board, over 10 companies and over 260 private donors. AHTF has done their best because of the community's help, our technical team and TXDot's assistance.
This tree is one of the few remaining from the historic Beckett Grove of Oak Hill. It is a healthy 100 year old tree that is young compared to the many 200 year old trees that have died at the grove. The grove used to be a tranquil place where travelers to Austin in the late 1800s used to stop to rest under the shade of the large oaks and cool down in the clean waters of Williamson Creek before continuing their long trip to Austin. Horses needed the water from the creek. Large portions of the grove were developed in the 1970s. Development has encroached and population has increased, and so it becomes even more important to save the few heritage trees that are left.
Due to safety concerns, we ask that the interested public watch the tree move from home once we post the video in our website and youtube. However, if you must attend (and you should if you helped this tree since this is what we worked so hard to accomplish), we ask that interested public and reporters please watch the move from the shopping mall on the south west side of the S290 and William Cannon intersection.
The full south east area where the tree is currently located is restricted to authorized personnel only, including the parking lot between the funeral home and the tree. The relocation site across S290 just west of the gas station will be restricted to authorized personnel only. We ask the public to, please, not park there or on the TXDot dirt construction area, to not block access for the trailer and crane to cross S290.
The traffic lanes immediately adjacent to the tree will be closed for about 5 hours to lift the tree out of the hole. The tree will be lifted with a crane onto a trailer, then after adjustments, the trailer will cross S290 with APD officers doing a rolling stop. There, the crane will lower the tree into its new location in the historic Beckett Grove, in TXDot ROW where it will not be affected by future construction.
Once at its new location, this tree will be known to AHTF as the "Beckett Grove Oak".
This tree is called the "Taco Bell tree" by the locals. The Austin Heritage Tree Foundation (AHTF) secured a grant from the City to pay for a large portion of the transplanting cost, but we need to raise the remainder of the funds. There is no alternative to preserve it.
In late September 2013, AHTF learned that TXDot was removing this healthy heritage oak tree because it was in the way of the intersection improvements. We met with TXDot and asked for time to let us transplant this tree. TXDot gave us until mid October to raise the money.
In mid October 2013, AHTF obtained a grant approved by the Urban Forestry Board to transplant the tree. AHTF committed to raise the remaining funds needed, and complete a feasibility study managed and paid by AHTF.
AHTF led the fund raising efforts. The Austin community, including Oak Hill, donated funds for the feasibility study and AHTF arranged for several tree professionals to donate or significantly reduce their fees for this study. The community paid for the feasibility study since the City grant was not released to pay for this due to the grant conditions.
The feasibility study, completed in mid November, showed that this 31.5 inch tree is healthy and a good candidate for transplanting. This tree has an estimated 75% chance of survival if transplanted but 0% if not. The transplanting cost increased to $94K due to site conditions.
TXDot's intersection work was delayed by the AT&T utilities so TXDot gave us until the end of December to raise the funds. AHTF approached the Austin community, including our tree loving members and friends, who sent more donations, but it wasn't nearly enough.
In mid December, AHTF obtained a large grant from the City of Austin, that replaced the previous grant, to transplant this tree. AHTF committed to provide $10K for transplanting and another $10K for miscellaneous expenses related to the transplanting, for a total of $20K. The City grant conditions did not allow releasing the funds until AHTF raised the $10K that we committed to contribute towards the transplanting cost.
Mother Nature helped Father Time. Several days of bad weather further delayed the road construction. TXDot extended the deadline every 2-3 weeks since January because of the delays on removing the AT&T utilities. This allowed more time for AHTF to raise donations and develop a solid plan.
AHTF reached the $20K goal to move this heritage live oak in March 2014, but needed a few thousand more for additional unexpected traffic control expenses (work at night to move the tree). We signed contracts with the tree mover Environmental Design (EDI) and TxDOT. Traffic control was pending and we waited on the AT&T utilities to be abandoned. Several news media helped AHTF raise the last donations by covering the tree story many times.
The traffic control cost much more than anticipated due to the difficult high traffic intersection. AHTF implemented a traffic control plan consisting of removing a portion of the traffic island and putting signs and water barricades at the intersection of William Cannon and S290. TxDOT had committed to not shut down any of the William Cannon lanes except during off-peak hours and on a temporary basis, and since the right turn lane had to remain open, the traffic control plan had to be improved.
TxDOT helped by removing the traffic island completely. The City of Austin Transportation Department helped by designing and approving a traffic control plan to detour all long vehicles from the William Cannon right turn lane. We were very thankful for this help, just when it was needed very badly. Thanks so much Victor, Chris and Ben from TXDot; Eric from The City of Austin Transportation Department; and Eric, Victor, Justin, Jesse and Leeman from N-Line.
On July 04, 2014, right on time to celebrate freedom and life, the Taco bell tree transplanting preparation continued. The root ball was encapsulated and pipes were inserted to cut the roots horizontally.
On July 12, 2014 the tree was relocated to the Beckett Grove, 500 ft. northeast across the road along S290, west of the gas station, in TXxDOT right-of-way, where it will be protected forever, and never be affected by future construction. Click here to see map.
The Austin Heritage Tree Foundation (AHTF) has setup an Austin Heritage Tree Foundation-Taco Bell tree fund at the Austin Parks Foundation. Donations are tax deductible. Cash donations are no longer accepted.
Please, contact Michael Fossum, AHTF () with any questions regarding the tree or the fund.
· Send a check to the Austin Parks Foundation, , . Please, make sure to write “Austin Heritage Tree Foundation- Taco Bell Tree” on the memo line. Please, email with the name of donor and donation amount so that we can confirm your donation.
· Call the Austin Parks Foundation at ext. 1 to donate by phone. Make sure to specify that your donation is for the “Austin Heritage Tree Foundation- Taco Bell Tree.” Please, email with the name of donor and donation amount so that we can confirm your donation. Please, contact Michael Fossum, AHTF, with any questions regarding the tree or the fund.
· Donate with a credit card at this link: https://www.austinparks.org/adopter-donations.html
Make sure to click on the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation box (6th from the top). Please, email with the amount and donor’s name so that we know that the donation was for the Taco Bell tree.
This healthy historical heritage tree is not protected by the heritage tree ordinance because all state work is exempted. This tree is called the "Taco Bell tree" by the locals who remember the long gone Taco Bell near by. This heritage tree is in the way of the intersection continuous flow expansion, a 5 year temporary solution to improve traffic flow. A new Oak Hill Parkway is currently being designed, and ironically 4 out of the 8 proposed designs would preserve this tree. This tree cannot be incorporated in the design and it can only be saved by transplanting it.
TxDOT welcomed the help to save this tree and, even though construction had already started, they allowed 2 months to transplant it and have fenced an area around the tree to protect it temporarily. The tree was originally scheduled for removal at the end of October.
AHTF and the community raised funds for the feasibility study and transplanting. Several certified arborists donated their work or reduced their fee significantly. The feasibility study was completed in mid November. A certified arborist and the tree mover determined that this tree is in good health and is a good candidate for transplanting. AHTF will provide 5 years of post care (irrigation and tree care). TxDOT has provided a location in their ROW, 500 ft. northeast, across the road along S290, where it will not be affected by future construction. This is the area known as the Beckett Grove.
This heritage tree is one of the few remaining from the Beckett Grove, a historical place included in the 2008 approved Oak Hill Neighborhood Plan (Chapter 2, pg. 8). In the late 1800s, travelers to Austin used to stop to rest under the shade of the large oaks and cool down in the clean waters of Williamson Creek. Horses needed the water from the creek. Large portions of the grove were developed in the 1970s. Development has encroached and population has increased, and so it becomes even more important to save the few heritage trees that are left.
This historical tree is very significant to the Austin community. It is a heritage tree worth preserving. Everyone is helping.
Our sincere thanks to the more than 250 donors from all over the larger Austin Metropolitan area.
Special thanks to Elizabeth, Andrea, Nate and Katie of Oak Hill for arranging their own separate fund raising events and contributing to the fund.
Special thanks to Laurie, Bruce, Elba, Dwight, Minetter, Dana, Stan, Gerald, Alison, Michele, Lee, Marion and Kevin for your generous or multiple donations.
In Special Memory of: Dear Erica and Dear Aunt Fay
Special thanks to Girl Scouts Brownie troop #2514 in Oak Hill who donated half of their cookie earnings to save this tree.
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DONATED PROFESSIONAL TREE WORK AND SUPPLIES:
We are listing the arborists below to thank them for their donations of tree work. This listing is not an endorsement for the quality of their tree work. Please, email us if you want our recommendation for tree care professionals.
Arbor Vitae Tree Care, Guy Leblanc, Certified Arborist.
The Natural Gardener John Dromgoole provided Sylvan mulch (a mix of 30% compost and 70% organic woody mulch, added minerals) that is excellent for trees.
Austin Tree Experts, Keith Brown, Certified Arborist.
Yoyo's Tree Services, Ramiro Dorantes, Certified Tree Climber.
Heritage Tree Care, Vincent Debrock, Certified Arborist.
Significantly reduced cost for air spading: Davey Tree, Dan Hunsicker, Certified Arborist.
NEWS COVERAGE :
11/21/13 , no longer available
Live Oak grove south of the tree: TXDot's site plans show this grove as protected. However, TXDot removed 2 trees because of safety concerns since the trunks of these trees extended over the new road without providing adequate clearance. Pruning would have not solved this problem. We asked TXDot to leave stumps because the live oaks in groves are connected by their roots, and cutting trees flush to the ground allows a path for decay to the roots of the other trees.
It is sad that these 2 healthy trees were removed. Many trees get removed when roads are expanded