Those 40-foot trees you may have seen cruising down Camp Meade Road yesterday are just signs of the times.
In the past, the 150 mature maples, pines, firs and spruces in the way of the proposed extension of Route 100 would have been bulldozed into oblivion to make way for the State Highway Administration's heavy machinery.
But with the green movement, it's the heavy machinery that's going out of its way for the trees. Three Vermeer-brand tree spades, including the largest truck-mounted tree spade east of the Mississippi, will be working full-time throughout the week scooping out the root systems of the trees and transplanting them to barren areas along two county interchanges.
The transplanting was ordered last year by the General Assembly, which was trying to decide what to do with the state-run Buckingham Forest Tree Nursery. The nursery is being bisected by the proposed link connecting existing sections of Route 100 in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
The 50-acre southern section of the 160-acre nursery will be donated by the state as open space, while the northern 94 acres will be left open to development, presumably industrial development given the area, said Richard Garrett, the nursery's director. The other 16 acres will be taken up by the highway.
The transplanting is being handled by a Gaithersburg company that recently moved holly trees for former President Ronald Reagan.
"That large one there was on the White House lawn; it's one tree-taming son of a gun," boasted Joe Adams, owner of All State Tree Movers, the company that won the $36,000 state contract to move the trees.
The state, Adams said, is getting a bargain for his services, considering that 20- to 40-foot trees can sell for several thousand dollars.
Adams said that if the state takes good care of the trees, giving them a constant supply of water, 90 to 95 percent should survive the transplant process.
The tree-moving machinery made for an impressive sight.
All State's biggest tree-spade, the DS-94, can cut an 8-foot wide bowl 6-feet deep. Though tree roots are often as extensive and adventurous as their branches, the main roots are saved in the process and should grow back at their new plots at the Route 32/Interstate 97 and the Baltimore Washington Parkway/Interstate 195 interchanges.
The trees -- all between 20 and 40 feet high and up to 12 inches across -- were planted over the past 20 to 30 years by Department of Natural Resources employees of the nursery, located at the intersection of Dorsey Road and Route 170. Garrett said the trees -- mostly evergreens -- were never intended to be transplanted.
The entire nursery -- which ships 7.5 million seedlings per year out to reforest parks, control erosion, deaden highway noises or provide shelter from the wind -- will be moving out to Caroline County within the next four years, Garrett said.