State to cut down 300-year-old bur oak tree leaning across Spurr Road

kward1@herald-leader.comFebruary 19, 2014 

A 300-year-old bur oak tree that is leaning across Spurr Road will be cut down Friday by the state Transportation Cabinet.

The state is removing the "historic landmark tree" as a safety measure, according to a news release.

The cabinet said an assessment showed that the tree's growth has declined for the past 10 years.

"It is sad," said Dave Leonard, the consulting arborist who evaluated the oak for the state.

He said the tree, which is 67 inches in diameter, is hollow and is leaning across Spurr Road, posing a potential a hazard to motorists.

The tree sits next to the road between The Learning Center at Linlee and a railroad crossing, meaning it is a "high liability," Leonard said.

"The tree's just hanging on by its teeth," he said. "I love my bur oaks, but this one's time has come. This one has definite issues."

If parts of the tree stay in "stable condition for transport" after the tree is cut, the Transportation Cabinet said in the news release that it plans to give the pieces to local organizations that will use them for educational purposes.

Leonard said no one will be able to count the rings, though, because so much of the tree is hollow.

Spurr Road is scheduled to be closed at milepoint 5.644 from about 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Friday while the tree is removed.

Bur oaks can grow to more than 100 feet tall and can live for hundreds of years, according to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

They once were common in the Bluegrass, but the extension service says "the species is not reseeding itself as fast as individuals are dying."

The extension service says it encourages planting of more bur oaks, but the trees are usually too large for most homeowners' yards.

Central Kentucky has had at least two national champion bur oaks to its credit.

A 104-foot-tall bur oak on former Gov. Brereton Jones' Airdrie Stud in Woodford County was named one of the nation's largest in 2010. It is thought to be about 500 years old.

Before that tree was measured, a bur oak in Bourbon County was considered a record-holder by the National Register of Big Trees.

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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