BLACKSBURG — The team behind the redevelopment of the old Blacksburg Middle School property won’t save the large oak tree near the front of the site, but it still plans to honor the natural landmark via its offspring and some other commemorations.
“We were not able to save or move the tree,” Jim Cowan, a partner with Midtown Redevelopment Partners, wrote in a statement. “We understand that many in the community have grown fond of the tree and that students in the 1970s planted it to commemorate the country’s bicentennial.”
Due to that history, Cowan said, Midtown has made arrangements with Black Dog Salvage of Roanoke to harvest the tree and build some seating out of it. There are also plans to build commemorative disks, he said.
Additionally, Midtown has consulted with John Seiler, a Virginia Tech forest biology professor who identifies the tree as a pin oak.
Seiler has collected the tree’s acorns and has a seedling growing, according to Midtown. More acorns were collected this year with hopes that additional seedlings can germinate.
The plan, according to Midtown, is to plant at least one of the pin oak’s offspring on the part of the redeveloped land that will be known as Central Park. A commemorative plaque will be installed to inform visitors of the parent tree’s history.
The plans to commemorate the oak tree come as Midtown is in the midst of preparing the roughly 20-acre site for a project that will feature a hotel, commercial space and a mixture of townhomes and apartments.
The town of Blacksburg also plans to build a complex on the site that will be comprised of a new police station and parking garage.
Despite the ambitious and long-awaited plans for the site, some residents in recent months had raised concerns about the development coming at the expense of some natural history.
As Cowan said, the oak tree was planted in 1976 to celebrate the country’s bicentennial.
The tree, however, would have stood in the way of parts of the project.
The tree also isn’t the only cherished piece of history on the property. Former students of the middle school that once existed have over the years recalled planting a time capsule beneath the tree.
The capsule has yet to be located, but contractors have been asked to be on the lookout for the item, according to Midtown.
“If and when we find the capsule, we will relocate it to a place that honors the history of the school,” Cowan said.
Cowan added: “We are excited to see Midtown finally take shape. This will be a boon to the downtown area and help serve as a gathering space to strengthen community ties in Blacksburg.”