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Countdown to the Removal of Basking Ridge's Oak Tree

Some overhanging branches of the great white oak tree already had been cut back by the time of a community memorial for the tree held last fall. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos
Hundreds of residents from Basking Ridge and nearby communities attended a memorial for the white oak tree hosted by the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos

BERNARDS TWP., NJ - A timeline for events leading up to the removal of the white oak tree that has stood for more than half a millennium -- and around which the village of Basking Ridge grew up -- is now in place. The date on which work will begin to take down the tree has been set for April 24.

The Historical Society of The Somerset Hills, which has set up a gofundme site to help the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church cover the cost of taking down and memorializing the 600-year-old tree, has published the schedule of events on a special page set up on its website. The tree is in the center of a historic cemetery on church property at 1 East Oak St.

Among the events planned will be a walking tour of historic Basking Ridge Village, to be led by Paula Axt of the historical society, between 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, the last day the tree is due to remain standing. The tour is scheduled to begin at the Brick Academy Museum at 15 West Oak St., and tickets must be reserved ahead. Details are here.

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Tree removal planned during April break in Bernards Township schools

In January, when the Bernards Township Committee gave permission for a planned fundraiser for the tree to be placed on the Bernards Township website, Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said he had been told the church planned to have the tree removed during the scheduled break in Bernards Township schools late in April.

Scheduled activities surrounding the tree's removal include:

There is a community fundraiser for Wednesday, April 19, at a wood museum at Pollaro Custom Furniture in Hillside. Details are here.

A commemorative Oak Tree T-shirt fundraiser will be conducted by the township's William Annin Middle School. Shirts should be available online and at Charter Day, according to the historical society.

The dismantling of the tree is scheduled to begin Monday, April 24.

Keiling Tree Service of Basking Ridge has been selected as the service provider to dismantle the tree.

Acorns were collected about 12-13 years ago and several seedlings were purchased and planted at various homes in the area. There are plans to transplant one of these seedlings to a site on the church property, although not on the exact site of the current tree. The transplanting of the oak tree's offspring should take place sometime in 2017, according to the historical society.

Memorial for tree held last November

The Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church already held a communitywide "memorial" for the tree in November that attracted hundreds of people and filled two halls within the church. Attendees then filed out to hear further homage to the tree.

Church officials had consulted tree experts when few leaves sprouted on the ailing tree last spring. Citing old age, and perhaps accumulated stresses, those who were watching over the landmark tree agreed that it had died by the end of last summer.

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