The 600+ year old oak tree in the courtyard of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, a township icon for centuries, may finally be on its last legs. If this turns out to be true, it would mean the oldest oak tree in America will soon be gone.
Farmers built a church beside the great tree in 1717, almost 300 years ago, and at that time the tree had already lived a typical life span for oak trees. The tree has become synonymous with Basking Ridge itself and is seen by many who have grown up and lived here as a family friend. A couple of years ago, the tree's upper branches didn't bloom in the springtime as they had for so long, and the township grew nervous about the future of its oldest resident. “We had great hopes,” said Dennis Jones, the pastor at Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. “All eyes were on the tree to see how it would green.”
It didn't recover as hoped. This year, the township has brought in ecologists and other experts to study the tree and figure out what to do next. As it is, the tree's base has been partially filled with cement to keep it standing stronger and many branches have been propped up or cut down. If these measures aren't enough, the tree may have to be taken down in the relatively near future.
Bill Emmitt is a church trustee at Basking Ridge Presbyterian and he hopes they can keep the tree going a little longer. According to experts, there is still some life in the historic tree. They hope to keep the tree intact for now.
No one is sure on a timetable for what will happen next to the tree known as "The Holy Oak". If you haven't seen this magnificent sight, be sure to make your way to South Finley Avenue in Basking Ridge and see one of the country's, if not the entire world's, oldest trees while it still stands.