© John van der Tol

ALPHEN AAN DEN RIJN – To remove a more than seventy-year-old chestnut tree, about fourteen meters high and almost forty tons, from the ground, lift it over a busy arterial road and replant tens of meters away. And all that on the same day. A major operation started on Monday, near the Queen Juliana bridge in Alphen.

The tree, which has stood next to the Salvatori Church for years, has to make way for a residential complex with sixty new apartments. The same applies to the church building on Ambonstraat, which will soon be demolished. ‘But it would be a shame to cut down that tree’, says Jan Bouter, director of project developer Bogor. ‘We have a warm heart for nature. Even if it costs us a lot of money.’

© John van der Tol

According to him, moving the chestnut tree will cost tens of thousands of euros. Serious money, Bouter calls it. ‘It doesn’t do us any good. We would have loved to avoid this financially, but you shouldn’t look at that. Our goal is to save the tree. Demolishing a full-fledged, mature tree is not sustainable. This will actually benefit nature’, says Bouter.

© John van der Tol

Temperature difference of four to five degrees

Tree expert Bernard Flier fully endorses this last comment. He and his consultancy Tree-O-Logic have been asked to thoroughly analyze the tree and the area around it. The outcome of this was a positive recommendation for relocation. ‘A tree of this age buffers a lot of water, captures CO2 and particulate matter and can cause a temperature difference of four to five degrees compared to a stone environment’, Flier sums up.

© John van der Tol

In this case it is a white horse chestnut. ‘That is a type of tree that can grow to a fairly large height. The tree in Alphen has a crown diameter of approximately fourteen meters and a trunk thickness of around 70 to 80 centimetres. What is also special is that this tree species is under pressure due to the chestnut bleeding disease. But this specimen is in such good condition that it is now starting its second life.’

Started preparations in preseason

Actually even a third life, because Flier’s research has shown that the tree has been moved about ten years ago. For the move, traffic will be diverted at the Prins Bernhardlaan/Willem de Zwijgerlaan intersection. For example, the chestnut tree can be moved against the normally busy traffic and via the central reservation. The new destination is located next to another apartment building on Anna van Burenlaan.

© John van der Tol

‘It is certainly a special project’, says Flier. ‘In principle, nothing can go wrong, although you can never completely rule out everything. What you don’t want is for the root ball (earth around the roots, ed.) to fall apart. You want to keep it compact. That is why we started preparations in the preseason and we dug up the root ball on three sides. So my work is largely done, I’m going to try to enjoy the move as much as possible.’

The chestnut tree in the new place
The chestnut tree in the new place © John van der Tol

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