BASKING RIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — While residents in Basking Ridge, New Jersey might have lost their battle to save a majestic, historic tree, they may have also given it a new life.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reports, the days are numbered for the 600-year-old white oak tree that sits next to the Presbyterian Church on Oak Street.
“It’s really a big symbol, and it just was so welcoming to see every year and so sad to watch it go,” resident Marie Young told Baker.
It’s the oldest known white oak in the country.
“The stories about the old oak tree go back to when George Washington met with the Marquis de Lafayette, and had picnicked under the tree, and they were strategizing about the Revolutionary War,” Mayor of Bernards Township Carolyn Gaziano said.
The church did everything it could to save the tree, but determined the oak is dead and will have to come down later this month before it falls on its own and destroys nearby headstones, which date back to the 1700s.
“The future generation of kids will grow up and they’ll know about the old oak tree, because the trunk will still be there with the memorial to it. But they’ll have the new tree,” Gaziano said.
The church collected acorns from the old oak tree and then auctioned off the seedlings. Sixteen years later, there stands a young white oak.
The new symbol of life was donated back to the church by Union County College professor Tom Ombrello, who nurtured the seedlings into the 25 foot tree planted in the Revolutionary War cemetery.
“I’ve spoken to people about how our community is really one that has many generations of residents, and now we have multiple generations of the tree,” Co-chair of the oak tree task force in Baskin Ridge John Klippel said.
The trees now serve as a symbol during Holy Week.
“This week that leads us to Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection, reminds us that sometimes what appears to be the end is not really the end,” one man said.
It’s a chance for a new beginning in Basking Ridge.