Community says goodbye to 600-year-old oak tree

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

A 600-year-old oak tree where US President George Washington once picnicked has been chopped down.

The dead tree, believed to be the nation's oldest white oak, now stands at over 100 feet tall. The new 16-year-old, 20-foot-tall oak will be transported to the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church to continue growing in a spot near its predecessor.

Workers have begun the process of cutting the tree down.

The tree has been considered an important part of the community since 1700.

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.

A 600-year-old white oak tree in New Jersey that's believed to be among the oldest in the nation is about to come down.

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Arborists say the tree existed for 300 years before the church was built in 1717. Arborists say that the removal is necessary because it would have fallen of its own accord during the coming winters or spring storms.

The tree stands about 100 feet tall, has a trunk circumference of 18 feet and has a branch spread of roughly 150 feet.

But the tree was determined to have died past year, leaving church officials to decide it had to be cut down.

The work started at 6 a.m., said Jon Klippel, a member of the church's planning board.

"Everybody that has ever lived here has recognized that tree as sort of a symbol of home", parishioner John Klippel said last fall.

In a photograph taken Friday, April 21, 2017, Keith Keiling, right, and his brother Bobby Keiling set up a support beam to hold up a limb of a 600-year-old white oak tree on the grounds of Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in B. 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.

The church will keep the tree's stump and memorialize its life with a plaque. A much younger, 25-foot white oak was grown from an acorn that fell from the very big mother tree.

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