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Preservation Work Brings Out Majesty Of Historic Tree

A new sight is greeting drivers headed down Military Pike toward Harrodsburg Road in Lexington.

Efforts underway to preserve a massive bur oak have made the tree’s hilltop silhouette even more impressive.

Tom Kimmerer, chief scientist for Venerable Trees, has known this particular towering tree for more than 30 years, "but it wasn't until we started on the tree protection plan [and] we cleared a lot of the brush and small trees that were around this tree, that all the sudden it just jumps out at you now."

The 70-foot-tall bur oak has remained standing despite numerous attempts to develop the land.

Now, with Ball Homes set to move forward on an Urban County Council approved plan for apartments and single-family homes, Kimmerer is working with the developer to safeguard the tree. Per the agreement, contractors are barred from an area three quarters of an acre around it and preservationists have set about pruning and mulching the area to kill off weeds.

With a hollow trunk, Kimmerer says it’s impossible to know the age of the tree, but if he had to hazard a guess it would "around 450-500 years old." Still, even with the precautions, he says it’s difficult to predict whether the tree will live another few years – or another 200.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.