UT Austin to relocate Heritage trees in the medical district

July 14, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — Monday, July 14, is moving day for three heritage oak trees in The University of Texas at Austin’s Centennial Park. The prepped trees are now ready for relocation into what was a parking lot for the Frank Erwin Center. Site preparation for construction of the Dell Medical School’s academic and education building began in late April. The transplanted trees will be prominently featured in the building’s courtyard.

Early in the planning process, the university dedicated funds to move trees in Dell Medical School’s building footprints that are healthy enough and viable for transplanting within the medical district. Although most of the trees in the medical district will be outside of the primary construction zones, the university’s arborist and environmental consultants have identified 14 Heritage and Protected trees for transplant. Three trees have already been relocated, and the remaining tree moves (8) will occur during the next few months of construction.

“The university understands the historic and financial value of its trees,” said Jim Walker, the university’s director of sustainability. “So, even though we’re not subject to city ordinances as a state agency, we have an excellent reputation for upholding the spirit of the ordinance . . . The university and its contracting partners have moved more Heritage trees than any other organization in the city.”

According to its tree conservation web page, the institution has transplanted 46 trees during the past 15 years with a 93 percent survival rate. The university attributes the program’s success to green building guidelines, an extremely dedicated landscaping department and consultants who assist in evaluating which trees are the best candidates for relocation.

“You can’t really underestimate tree health as a predictor of relocation survival,” said university arborist Jim Carse. Carse and the consultants catalogued and evaluated the health of every tree in the medical district as architects began designing buildings for the school in 2013. In December 2013, the university began pruning trees in the district, removing dead or dying trees (many of which were set aside for milling and reuse), and prepping Heritage and Protected Trees identified for transplant.

Although a lot of planning has gone into preserving the trees in the area, some will be impacted by medical district construction (e.g., installation of bioswales and footpaths, upgrading of bridges). Unhealthy trees that pose a danger will be removed as is standard practice on campus, and non-native trees will be removed in the interest of improving the ecology of the district and Waller Creek.

“We are creating a campus dedicated to health,” said Walker. “That includes the health of its ecosystem.”

Note: Media interested in covering the tree moves on Monday, July 14, 2014 should meet University Operations staff in Lot 118, north of the Frank Erwin Center and east of Hargis Hall between 10 a.m. and noon. Entrance to Lot 118 is off the south bond IH 35 frontage road. Be sure to bring your media parking passes. 

For more information, contact: Rhonda Weldon, 512 471 4472