University to plant new trees if current oaks do not survive

AUBURN – The tradition of rolling Auburn’s oaks will continue even if the trees do not survive being poisoned in 2010. President Jay Gogue this week accepted the recommendation of the Committee to Study the Future of Rolling Toomer’s Corner, which proposed replacing the troubled oaks—should they die—with one or more large trees and using a temporary structure to celebrate victories until the new trees have established roots.

Auburn horticulture and forestry experts will evaluate the current oaks this spring. They are not expected to survive. Development of a timetable to replace them is under way.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for those of us who love Auburn,” said Debbie Shaw, vice president for alumni affairs and committee chair. “We dearly love the live oaks that have served us well for so long, but we now must focus on creating an environment that future generations can enjoy.”

To assist the committee in its decision, more than 1,200 alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of Auburn responded to a survey in December, indicating their preference for the future of the corner.

“After reviewing the comments, it is clear that the rolling tradition at Auburn University must continue,” said Shaw. “We are thankful to those who took the time to read and respond to the survey. Their ideas and suggestions illustrate how passionate they are and how much they love Auburn.”

Survey respondents were given four options: plant small oak trees; plant large living trees; move the rolling tradition to a permanent structure in the intersection at Toomer’s Corner; or design an artificial structure that would be located at the current site of the oaks. Based on feedback and the expertise of its members, the committee proposed the large tree option, plus development of a temporary structure that would be used for rolling.

The tradition will likely continue this year with the existing oaks whether they survive or not.

“I don’t expect to see significant change in the trees until at least spring when they typically put forth new leaf growth,” said professor of horticulture Gary Keever. “Even if they die before next fall, they should still be strong enough to sustain rolling during the football season.”

Keever said there would be several options for replacing the oaks.

“The live oak is not native to this area, so we might consider a different species,” Keever said. “Either way, we want to make sure that we plant an attractive and long-living tree, one that would enhance the beauty and character of our campus.”