Bert the Bluff Oak’s Fate Revealed

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Bert, the 200-year-old bluff oak tree on the University of Florida’s campus, will be torn down sometime in the next week, according to Steve Orlando, senior director of UF media relations.

“UF has a long and solid history when it comes to conservation,” he said. “Our number one mission though is to educate students. Everyone agrees that it’s in the best interest of the students and the building to remove the tree.”

Despite efforts to create a plan that saved as many heritage trees as possible, UF has settled on the design for the expansion of the College of Engineering’s Nuclear Sciences Building and the construction of the NEXUS addition that requires Bert to be removed.

UFMAPScheme W7 Option 2 of the NEXUS building plan will require 36 trees to be removed from the area, including Bert and five other heritage trees.

“It’s the design in which the building works best for what it’s trying to accomplish,” Orlando said. “It doesn’t save all the trees, but it does save some.”

UF President Kent Fuchs and Cammy Abernathy, dean of the college of engineering, ultimately made the decision, he said.

The NEXUS addition budget was approved after being reduced from $25 to $6 million in June. The university would like to begin construction to accommodate the early legislative start date and avoid construction cost increases, according to a letter written by Curtis Reynolds, the vice president for business affairs.

On May 14, a meeting was held to discuss the various design plans presented to the University Lakes, Vegetation and Landscape Committee.

One design interfered with major utility lines on the west side and another would be too close to the Reitz Union, blocking the view of the stadium. The designs were limited by the boundaries of the Campus Master Plan.

The committee considered moving Bert, but decided against it because of the eight-month relocation time and $450,000 cost to drag it’s heavy frame.

According to the letter, the university plans to hire an independent arborist on retainer to consult on future projects that could require significant tree removal.

About Kelly Audette

Kelly is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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