AUBURN, Alabama -- A year after it cut its iconic oak trees at Toomer's Corner, Auburn University removed today the roots of one of the two oaks in preparation for a project to remove contaminated soil and replace the trees by early 2015.Workers spent 12 hours Tuesday freeing the roots of the oak along College Street before lifting the root ball onto a truck this morning.
University officials said the roots of the oak along Magnolia Avenue would be removed either later today or early tomorrow.
"It's a sad time," said Jeff Davis, owner of JLD Enterprises in Auburn, the subcontractor that removed the extensive root system.
University spokesman Mike Clardy said the roots would be removed to an undisclosed storage location and could be sold off in the form of mementos with revenue going to support a student scholarship fund.
As part of the ongoing project, university officials said they anticipate removing 1,200 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the corner, at a depth of six feet around the oaks and three feet throughout the corner.
Replacement soil will be tested to ensure it has no contaminants that could damage the new trees, university officials said.
"I don't think anyone will say this was a happy time in Auburn's history, but I think we're ready to turn the page," Clardy said after the root ball's removal.
University officials are yet to decide what species of oak will replace the live oaks that stood over the corner more than 80 years, but they have narrowed the choice to another set of live oaks or overcup oaks.
The tree and soil replacement is part of a larger project to redevelop Samford Park at the corner to cost an estimated .2 million to million.
Harvey Updyke Jr., a retired Texas state trooper, pleaded guilty last year to poisoning the oaks with the commercial herbicide Spike 80DF after the Alabama Crimson Tide lost the 2010 Iron Bowl match-up to Auburn
After serving six months in jail, Updyke was released on probation and ordered to pay 6,732 in damages to Auburn University at a rate of 0 per month.
Even after the new trees are planted, it will be years before Auburn Tigers fans can resume the tradition of festooning them with toilet paper, Auburn University Horticulture Professor Gary Keever said.
How many years will depend on how quickly the replacements establish in their new home, he said.
In deeply personal responses, dozens of former inmates, family members of current inmates and volunteers with prison ministries have given detailed accounts of how their experiences with the facility continue to affect their lives.
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