As we progress in the process of building the Prayer House at the Community of the Cross, we bumped into a hard question: Can we save the Oak Tree?

In early February 2017, Brewster and landscape architect Rebecca Cipriano met with arborist Bob Wardwell for advice about an oak tree near the proposed building site (i.e., the original site before huge challenges required us to move it late 2017).

Jeanne Kraak and I (Mary Ellen) sat down with them, asking what the issues are, and then received a short course on tree preservation.

The Oak Tree

The Chestnut Oak tree near the Prayer House building site

The Chestnut Oak tree near the Prayer House building site

Constructing a building starts with clearing the land (well, actually it starts with drawings and measurements and permits, but let’s skip over that part for now.)

In a place like the Community of the Cross, where God has placed us in the midst of so much natural beauty–trees, rocks and a river–we have worked hard to place human structures in harmony with the landscape. As our architect Brewster Ward said:

First came the vision for the Prayer House and along with it came the general site.  Now we need to find where the building fits best with the slope and trees.  Preservation [of the natural environment] is important.

A Lesson in Tree Preservation

It starts with assessing the health of the tree.  Then, based on the diameter of the tree, you make an estimate of the tree protection zone to protect trees and their root zones during construction.

Then, compare that estimate with your site plan.  Does your site plan allow for sufficient space to protect your tree?  If not, can you adjust your building site? Or does the tree have to go?!

Fortunately, the arborist described our tree as, “A fully mature chestnut oak. A very valuable tree. It appears structurally sound.  Healthy.”  There was a sigh of relief. The first criteria was met.

A "healthy", "valuable" tree

A “healthy”, “valuable” tree

Then he measured the diameter of the tree. He calculated the “good, better, and best” protection zone radius. Rebecca and Brewster mapped it onto the site plan.  Phew. We have just enough room.

But this is just the beginning. To avoid compaction of the soil and other damage to the tree, you need to cordon off the area of the tree protection zone during construction.

Some people just use orange cones, but often this is done with a protective fence. Other strategies include scheduled watering, fertilizing and mulching to protect tree roots. Selective pruning may be done before or after building construction is completed.

Please Pray as We Continue with Planning and Construction

Drawing of the completed prayer house

Drawing of the completed prayer house – first design

This is just one glimpse of the many steps leading up to starting construction.  Please pray along with us for planning, funds, and any obstacles to construction being removed. To learn more about the Community of the Cross and how you can pray for its development, follow the link below.

The Community of the Cross

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