Oak tree gets new home at The Willcox
The Willcox saw a bit of excitement Wednesday afternoon as a large, live oak was delivered and planted in front of the hotel.The tree replaces a diseased live oak that Willcox owners Geoff and Shannon Ellis wanted to see saved, but the limbs were quickly dying creating a hazard and causing them concern.Now, the hotel has a fresh, new live oak that is around 12 to 13 years old. It came from the Shady Grove Plantation and Nursery tree fields in Barnwell. The new tree stands 35 feet tall and is about 8- feet in width.The tree was dug up Wednesday morning and took around an hour and half to complete, according to Mike Walsh with Shady Grove. It took about five hours the day before to tie up the limbs for safe travel.Walsh said he was quite excited and honored to have one of Shady Grove's trees at the historic Willcox."We're just really, really tickled to put this tree at this very wonderful hotel," Walsh said.Landscaper Todd Stilp, owner of Enviroscape, headed the effort of replacing the tree which started in November. The diseased tree, which was about 45 years old, was most likely damaged by an ice storm from years ago as well as wind, Stilp said.The old tree was removed by Quality Tree Service. About 3 feet of the stump was ground down and then workers dug another 5 feet to remove the rest of the dead root system."This is a big job, but we just did one with Shady Grove at a horse ranch in Aiken County earlier this month," Stilp said in a press release. "Of course, there's a big difference between planting a large tree in a field and doing so with a tree that will be surrounded by concrete, asphalt and brick work between a hotel and a city street."That big job was a big success. The tree arrived on a large truck that included a lift that raised the oak and gently lowered it into the hole. After it was placed and released from the lift, workers shoveled in dirt and began to climb the tree to release the branches from the ties.Both Willcox staff and residents stopped to watch the spectacle.Shannon Ellis said it was fascinating to watch the large tree arrive, come off the truck and go into the ground."It was beautiful," she said. "It's a big production; it's amazing."The new oak will now be monitored closely as it may experience some transplant shock, Stilp said.The Ellises thanked everyone involved in helping replace the tree in front of their hotel, saying they were very grateful for the teamwork and are very happy with the oak.Amy Banton is the city beat reporter and has been with the Aiken Standard since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va., and a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman's College.