Clearing the Right-of-Way: A Unique Solution to Getting Around a 250-Year-Old Tree

How often do you think about the importance of trees? They provide oxygen, clean the air, shade our homes to help save on energy costs, help prevent soil erosion, give beauty to landscapes and much more. Considering the benefits trees provide, I think it’s fair for us to protect them when we are able. Recently, I had an opportunity to be a part of a project that went above and beyond to do just that, and it was a great experience.

As part of our continued work to further develop the Texas Heritage Parkway, we needed to clear some land to expand the thoroughfare on Pederson Road near IH-10, but there was a problem – a 250-year-old, 625,000-pound Oak tree sitting right in the middle of the land we needed to clear. The first thing many would normally think was to cut the tree down and continue moving the project along. However, this tree was priceless in the eyes of the client and residents, many of whom took wedding, graduation and family photos under the tree. It was a staple of the community.

So, to accommodate the community in the growing area, we decided to move the tree so that residents could still access it to take photos and observe its beauty. Yes, you read that correctly. The team’s solution to save the tree was to relocate it 600 feet northeast, where it will become the centerpiece of Newquest Properties’ upcoming Texas Heritage Marketplace development. The development is a 472,000 square-foot, mixed-use retail and grocery-anchored development that will serve residents in West Katy.

I didn’t see the decision to move the tree being the solution when we first began discussing how to clear the area, but I am glad we did. It’s not a very common occurrence to see a tree relocated, especially one of that size and stature. The process was extensive and took a good amount of time and coordination, but it was worth it in the end. Decisions like this go a long way with residents experiencing rapid growth in their area, and I take great pride in knowing we could accommodate their interests.

Now, you are probably wondering how the tree was moved. I’m glad you asked. We partnered with Environmental Design, a tree moving company in the Greater Houston area, to relocate the tree. They used their patented process, the Arbor Lift, to complete the relocation.

250 years old
625,000 pounds

The Removal Process

Step 1
First, the Environmental Design team repruned the tree by hand, surgically cutting the roots to minimize damage.

Step 2
From there, the tree was lifted from the ground and shaped by hand.

Step 3
The next step was to encapsulate the tree. The base and roots were wrapped with burlap, wire and plastic to provide a new stable base.

Step 4
Allow the tree to cure. The tree was left in the area where it was pulled for five months. This was required to minimize shock to the tree, which increased the tree’s chance of surviving the move. During this time, it was hydrated with 1,200 gallons of water a week.


The Moving Process

Step 1
After five months, the encapsulated tree was lifted and placed on a pipe platform.

Step 2
Next, the platform was placed on pneumatic airbags (an inflatable bag with extremely low ground bearing pressure) under the platform. This allowed Environmental Design to perform a controlled roll to relocate the tree.

The tree was then replanted, and now we are patiently waiting to see if it survives the move. Either way, the process was interesting, and I’m glad I was able to see it in person. It’s going to be a cool story to tell my kids about. In the meantime, we are back to work on the Texas Heritage Parkway and looking forward to helping alleviate traffic congestion in the area.


Benton Schmaltz, PE, LEED AP

Benton Schmaltz, PE, LEED AP

Benton is a Director of Site Development in the Katy office at BGE. He has nearly 20 years of experience in his field, concentrated in multi-family, single-family, office, mixed-use and commercial retail projects.