600-Year-Old White Oak Tree Being Cut Down In Basking Ridge

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A New Jersey community is reluctantly saying farewell to an icon of sorts.

The 600-year-old white oak in Basking Ridge, N.J. was declared dead last year and crews started to cut it down on Monday.

The old tree's removal is a reminder of how older trees are starting to become less common across the nation.

Workers operating a pair of smaller cranes meticulously began cutting the ancient tree down early on Monday morning. They were due to return to the church Tuesday - weather permitting - to continue the process, which is expected to be completed by Wednesday.

The nearby church - Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church - was built in 1717, when the tree was 300 years old.

Among its notable visitors was Gen. George Washington, who town officials say picnicked at the tree with the Marquis de Lafayette.

Using acorns from the old tree, another white oak has been planted elsewhere on the church's property.

The tree stood at 100-feet over a gravesite at a Presbyterian Church on Oak Street. Arborists determined the tree would not withstand upcoming harsh winters or spring storms, according to a NBC New York report.

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The tree's circumference was 18 feet and it had a branch spread of about 150 feet.

But before dying, the tree gave back to the town that so loves it.

Experts say fewer trees are replicating the old oak's 600-year lifespan.

'It just kind of feels like a part of the town is dying with it, ' one resident told CBS a year ago.

"It has been an integral part of the town, that's for sure", said Jon Klippel, a member of the church's planning council. At first, officials thought they would be able to simply remove segments of the larger limbs, but the rot was too severe. They note that several factors — including droughts, intensive wildfires and invasive insects — can greatly harm trees, which become more susceptible to damage as they age. Hundreds of people came by throughout the day to say goodbye to the historic tree that has been the centerpiece of the community for centuries.

A symbolic white oak tree that stood even before Christopher Columbus set foot in the United States has been cut down.

"It is emotional", resident Glads Perez told News 12 New Jersey.

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