The university began the labor-intensive project of transplanting the oak earlier this summer as part of a $135 million, donor-funded project to expand the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
With the historic tree standing in the way of the plans, the school decided to factor in the nearly half-million-dollar cost of moving it. The university brought in specialists, a Texas-based company called Environmental Design, to oversee the project.
The crews placed pipes under the tree’s roots and have begun the process of excavating around it in order to lift the tree from the ground like a center piece on a birthday cake.
All of that is to give the tree the best chance of surviving the tricky procedure — but there is still a 20 to 30 percent chance that it just won’t make it, a school official told MLive.
Eventually, the tree will sit atop a platform — all 700,000 pounds of it and the earth around it — and be rolled to its final destination on Oct. 25.
“The transporter has approximately 100 wheels, which all operate independently. This gives us the flexibility to turn the tree as many different directions as needed to safely relocate the tree,” said Paul Cox, vice president of Environmental Design, according to a Michigan press release. “We expect the process of relocating the tree to take all day Saturday, again, weather permitting.”
On the U of M campus, the effort has inspired more of an appreciation for trees than anger from misers who balk at the expense, at least publicly.
Jenny Cooper, a graduate student at the business school and Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment signed a petition to save the oak along with 291 students and faculty, applauded the effort.
“As I see it, the rationale for preserving the (legacy bur oak) tree is about history, tradition, pride and respect,” she told the Ann Arbor News. “The tree is a symbol of strength and resilience and far predates the university as part of the landscape.”
And according to Cox, the cost has more to do with the difficulty of moving such a massive piece of nature — without killing the tree.
“It’s very much like the Egyptians moved the blocks for the pyramids,” Cox told Fox News. “The driver of the cost is the amount of weight being moved. When you move things that are 700,000 pounds — which is equivalent to moving 300 average size cars at the same time — that’s what’s driving the cost of it.”
And hey, if you’ve got the money, who looks at the price tag?
[This post has been updated.]