What Does It Take To Move A 10-Story Tree A Couple Of City Blocks? : The Two-Way That answer, as seen Sunday in Boise, Idaho: $300,000 and a lot of determination. St. Luke's Health System, which moved the historic sequoia, says it "was never even an option" to cut it down.
NPR logo What Does It Take To Move A 10-Story Tree A Couple Of City Blocks?

What Does It Take To Move A 10-Story Tree A Couple Of City Blocks?

An aerial view of the sequoia in Boise, Idaho, as workers prepared to transport it about two blocks. Heavy machinery had to be used to prune its roots and build a structure so they could move the roughly 100-foot tree, which was planted back in 1912. Rebecca Boone/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Rebecca Boone/AP

An aerial view of the sequoia in Boise, Idaho, as workers prepared to transport it about two blocks. Heavy machinery had to be used to prune its roots and build a structure so they could move the roughly 100-foot tree, which was planted back in 1912.

Rebecca Boone/AP

The historic giant sequoia in Boise, Idaho, towers some 10 stories tall. At more than a century old, it also weighs a hefty 800,000 pounds and measures roughly 20 feet around at its base. Oh, and it had to move a few city blocks.

All of which raised a very good question: How the heck was that going to happen?

If you ask St. Luke's Health System, the hospital that had to move the tree in order to expand, the answer boiled down to this: a whole lot of determination — that, and a whole lot of money and patience. The hospital spent $300,000 on a plan that was long in the works.

Walking from A to B on this map would take you less than five minutes under typical circumstances. But when you're lugging an 800,000-pound tree as you go, things get much more complicated. Google Maps/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Google Maps/Screenshot by NPR

Walking from A to B on this map would take you less than five minutes under typical circumstances. But when you're lugging an 800,000-pound tree as you go, things get much more complicated.

Google Maps/Screenshot by NPR

But cutting down the tree "was never even an option," Anita Kissée, a hospital spokeswoman, told The Associated Press. "We understand the importance of this tree to this community."

The tree was a gift from John Muir, father of the U.S. national parks system, who passed along four sequoia seedlings to an Idaho forester in the early 20th century, the wire service reports: "Of the four sequoias from Muir's seedlings, the only one that still exists is the one being moved."

The tree had stood steadfast since it was planted in 1912. To move it, the hospital enlisted the company Environmental Design, which according to Boise State Public Radio, had to prune the tree's roots, tunnel beneath it and use steel pipes and airbags ultimately to lift it.

"Chains anchoring the 100-foot-tall tree and its roots to a grid structure clanked as two big excavators pushed it into final position," BSPR's Matt Guilhem reports for our Newscast unit.

And David Cox, a forester who helped with the 10-hour move, tells Matt this is not the end of the process. The five years of care planned for the evergreen includes "some drainage structures, site tubes, monitoring tubes, irrigation," Cox says.

With the sequoia's successful move Sunday, Cox and others hope the evergreen has many long, healthy years still ahead of it.