28 April, 2017
This 2006 photo provided by the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church shows a 600-year-old white oak tree that's believed to be among the oldest in the nation, in Bernards, N.J. Crews are sche. The old tree, declared dead last summer after it failed to sprout foliage, is scheduled to be chopped down soon.
In fact, the removal of the tree - the symbol of Bernards Township, the sentinel of the Presbyterian Church's historic cemetery, and the namesake of the nearby Oak Street School - began on Monday morning.
Over the years, the tree served as a backdrop for countless family photos and even shielded George Washington from the sun during a few picnics during the American Revolution, according to legend.
The community is finding solace in the fact that the tree's legacy will live on.
Sunday's service will be the first without the majestic tree overlooking the church graveyard and congregation, built around it, some 300 years ago.
The tree's removal is a reminder of how older trees are starting to become less common across the nation.
It will take several days to remove the tree.
Keith Keiling, owner of Keiling Tree Care in Basking Ridge, said he expects the removal of the tree will be finished today, despite predicted rain.
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Residents said they were said to see the tree come down but understand why.
The two to three days of chopping and pulling will draw attention from residents of a bedroom community about 30 miles west of NY that has long celebrated its white oak.
It stands about 100 feet tall, has a trunk circumference of 18 feet, with a branch spread of roughly 150 feet. They were due to return to the church Tuesday - weather permitting - to continue the process, which is expected to be completed by Wednesday.
Arborists determined it would not withstand many more winters or spring storms.
The work started at 6 a.m., said Jon Klippel, a member of the church's planning board.
The old oak will be replaced by an offspring that has already grown to 25 feet tall.
Despite the tree's condition, some Bernards, New Jersey, residents were stumped as to why it needed to be removed.