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New Home For Old Austin Oak Tree

Updated: Wednesday, June 25 2014, 05:55 PM CDT

A century old oak tree is about to get a new home. Hundreds of people rallied to save the "Taco Bell Tree" in Southwest Austin. It got its name from the restaurant parking lot it used to shade. This is a second chance for a tree that's proving it's a survivor. 

Shovels, of every size, are digging in to get an old oak out of its precarious position. 

"Because it's been buried," said Robert Ploen, project manager with Environmental Designs. 

It's covered, with layers of soil that came up too high on its trunk. 

"Over time it's adapted to it. Most trees will die from that, but this one has made it," said Ploen who is overseeing the tree's transplant. 

It's another example of how this hundred year old live oak is a survivor. 

"We like to think of this as the luckiest tree in the world," said Michael Fossum, executive director of the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation. 

"It's almost like a death row inmate. You get a stay of execution time, after time, after time," said Fossum. 

Rooted at the corner of William Cannon and Hwy 290, the Oak Hill icon was about to be bulldozed so the busy intersection could be expanded. 

Money trickled in for months until there was enough to dig it up and move it to a cluster of trees across the highway. 

"The total cost on the project is about $100,000," said Fossum. "Kind of like adopting a puppy at the animal shelter." 

Meaning saving the tree is more work than anyone could have imagined. But, within a week or two the transplant will be complete. 

"We'll put lifting pipe under each end, get a 350 ton crane here, simply lift it out of the hole and put it on a trailer and take it to its new home," said Ploen. 

And odds are the tough old oak tree will survive the challenge. 

"Company's running at 98 percent," said Ploen. 

Ultimately, supporters of the "Taco Bell Tree" would like its new home on Hwy 290 to be turned into a pocket park.

By Bettie Cross

New Home For Old Austin Oak Tree

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