Auburn University in Alabama has announced its intentions to remove the majority of the school’s iconic “Toomer’s Corner” oaks at the end of the 2013 school year. The trees, which have been growing for over 130 years, are a mainstay of the school and students take delight in rolling their branches with toilet paper after every Auburn football game victory.
Toomer’s Corner is a popular and beautiful location on Auburn’s historic campus hearkening back to a slower time in the genteel south. Providing shade and respite for students and faculty alike, the oaks have taken on a personality among the University over the course of generations.
In February of 2011, Harvey Updyke Jr., a lifelong University of Alabama fan, is accused of poisoning the oaks with the intention of killing them. His trial date looms and he’s expressed seemingly sincere repentance for his actions but many Auburn students say it’s too little, too late. The Auburn-Alabama football rivalry is a long and storied one, fraught with insensitivities and shots below-the-belt. The poisoning of the Toomer’s Corner oaks, however, has spurned an unprecedented joint effort between the two schools to save the trees and build good will.
Updyke says he used an herbicide known as Spike 80DF which is designed to disrupt a plant’s photosynthetic process. The chemical kills trees slowly by causing each branch to produce fewer and fewer leaves each year until the entire plant dies. School and state officials have worked tirelessly since 2011 to find a way to reverse the process and perhaps save the trees, but to no avail.
Auburn has announced the final “rolling” of Toomer’s Corner will be held on April 20th of this year after the Auburn A-Day game and an Oak-honoring block party. Students will have the opportunity to partake in the tradition for the last time before the oaks are removed in preparation for the 2013 football season. The school board solicited suggestions for re-landscaping Toomer’s Corner and though they haven’t yet announced the area’s plans, assure Auburn fans the new design will honor the school’s tradition and history, as well as the oaks’ legacy.
“We want people to be upbeat about the future for the area,” said Debbie Shaw, Vice President for Auburn’s alumni affairs. Students and fans alike agree the removal of the storied oaks will in no way diminish the Auburn spirit and many say they’re looking forward to this year’s Auburn vs. Alabama football game which will be played at home.