Auburn celebrates Arbor Day

By Mackenzie Patterson - email

AUBURN, AL (WXTX) -  Saturday brought a new focus to how important the Toomer's Corner Oaks are to Auburn fans and the community.  The city of Auburn celebrated Arbor Day by handing out seedlings to the community.  But for many, the day meant looking to the trees that have been a legacy and a symbol for the history of Auburn University.

Crowds continue to pour into Toomer's Corner in Auburn to see their beloved oak trees.  The trees are expected to die soon after being poisoned allegedly back in November after the Iron Bowl game.  Fans explained without the 130 year old oak trees arbor day will never be the same.

For Addison and Alexis Stephens rolling the Toomer's Oaks has always been a family tradition.

"Since I was in my mom's stomach," said Alexis.

The trees are much different now: poisoned and barricaded.

Just this week, Auburn University removed the soil surrounding the trees and put down a new mixture of fresh soil and activating charcoal in hopes of drawing any herbicide poison that may be left over to the charcoal.

Young fans like Addison Stephens are sad the trees might not be here when they are students.

"I won't be able to see them and roll toilet paper over them anymore," said Addison.

While the Stephens family was enjoying the Oaks, the city of Auburn was recognizing the importance of all trees.  Members of the Auburn Tree Commission handed out free seedlings for Arbor Day.  Dr. Art Chappelka is a member of Auburn University's task force trying to save the trees.

"We have some civil engineers who are working with our water quality people and what we're trying to do is see how deep the poison got into the ground," said Chappelka.

Chappelka explained to News Leader Nine they will continue to take soil samples out of the new soil mixture and trees to see how much poison is still there.  He said it's a step to saving the trees, but there are no definite answers right now.  Chappelka said they will continue testing and then see if the tests need even more new soil or if a new route needs to be taken.  But, he said the people of Auburn have a new appreciation for trees.

"They leave a legacy for not only us, but for our children, our grandchildren," said Chappelka

Todd Stephens agrees.  He has been an Auburn fan for his entire life.  He said that he wants to make sure his two young daughters, Alexis and Addison, understand Auburn pride.

"They're not just trees. They are a symbol of what this University is all about," said Stephens.

Stephens said even if these trees do die, Auburn traditions will live on.

"If it's not these two trees there will be something here or something on this campus that we can embrace," said Stephens.

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