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Heritage Live Oak Gets a New Home at Waterloo Park

Today, Waterloo Greenway relocated a nearly 150-year-old Live Oak tree to its new home at Waterloo Park in downtown Austin. Although a significant move logistically, the tree didn’t travel far, as it came just ½ a block from its original location at the site of the offices of the Austin Symphony Orchestra at 1101 Red River Street. The Austin Symphony has been a partner and neighbor to Waterloo Greenway since the conservancy moved its headquarters to the historic Hardeman House at Symphony Square in 2018.

The tree’s relocation from the Austin Symphony offices, adjacent to Waterloo Park, is symbolic of the cultural and natural restoration occurring in the Red River Cultural District. Waterloo Greenway, in partnership with the City of Austin Parks & Recreation and Watershed Protection Departments, is bringing a vibrant park system to the area that will connect visitors not only to nature, but to one another through community, culture and the arts.

“Waterloo Park is intentionally forward-looking as we seek to create a better, brighter and more equitable Austin,” said Peter Mullan, CEO of Waterloo Greenway Conservancy. “While we are future-focused, we also want to honor our past. By bringing this deep-rooted live oak into the park,  its mature limbs will not only provide much-needed shade, but also remind the community of our city’s rich history and those that were here before us.”

The Austin Symphony tree was moved to the southeast corner of Waterloo Park. It will serve as a focal gathering spot, featuring a circular bench around the trunk, designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and dwg.

This live oak is just one of eight trees transplanted as part of the new park design – including four within the park, one from State property on North Congress Ave., and two from the University of Texas, and now one from the Symphony. All are acclimating very well to their new habitat.
This particular tree boasts an impressive root system, checking in at 27 feet in diameter, and due to its slope, it is buried 7 feet deep on one side, and 3 feet deep on the opposite. dwg. noted that this is quite substantial as live oak transplant root balls are typically only about 3 to 4 feet deep. The tree is 26” in diameter and weighs in at approximately 300,000 lbs (or 150 tons!).

With such an immense tree, the moving process requires extra care and consideration.. All costs associated with the transplanting process were generously donated to Waterloo Greenway by project partner, Greystar, a local development and construction management firm.

“Greystar is excited to support Waterloo Greenway and their efforts in redeveloping Waterloo Park for the City of Austin,” said Greg Himmel, Associate of Development at Greystar. “The team at Waterloo Greenway has been excellent to work with and we know their efforts will have a lasting impact on Austin. We are proud to be a small part of that effort.”

DPR Construction continues project development at Waterloo Park with increased safety precautions due to COVID-19. This past week, trees and other vegetation began arriving at the park, transforming a construction site into a soon-to-be green oasis of parkland and bold ideas. At completion, Waterloo Park will be home to nearly 500 trees – 25 conserved on site and 466 newly planted, as well as the handful carefully relocated from the surrounding area.

“With more than 200 workers on site, we are focused on bringing the project to completion while maintaining the health and safety of everyone involved,” said DPR’s Nick Moulinet. “We are excited to start getting plantings in place so that everyone can see the original vision come to life.”

Waterloo Park is the first phase of the larger Waterloo Greenway project.. The 11-acre park features a great lawn, the Moody Amphitheater, over a mile and a half of trails and a variety of garden and park spaces. It is designed to maximize the existing heritage tree canopy by locating trails, playscapes, gardens and seating areas in and around beautiful shade trees. Waterloo Greenway Conservancy will maintain and operate the park, in partnership with the Downtown Austin Alliance, and will activate it with diverse and inclusive programming, cultural events, and public art.

Check out the KVUE News coverage of the move below!

Photos: Ashley Kegley-Whitehead, Waterloo Greenway