Oct. 8, 2004 – A couple dozen people were treated to a unique entertainment experience at sunset Thursday at the King's Alley boardwalk.
They were able to watch a 45-foot tall, three-ton palm tree loaded by crane onto a small barge to be hauled across Christiansted Harbor to be transplanted at a private home at Buccaneer.
According to Wendy Ramos, landscape architect with Antilles Design Group, the bystanders, who included tourists and patrons of the local bars, had lots of advice about how the operation should be conducted.
The royal palm was one of three that were being rescued from the renovation work being done at the Kings Alley Revitalization Project where a new hotel is to open. Also taken from the site were a traveler tree and a Christmas palm, Ramos said.
Ramos said moving the royal palms was a tough job. "They were really big trees to get out of a really tight space." The palm trees were about 45 feet high; the other trees were about 30 feet high.
Ramos estimates the trees to be 30-40 years old and nearly impossible to find for sale commercially except in a rare situation like this one, where a property is being so seriously renovated that trees like this would have to be cut down otherwise. Asked the trees' value, Ramos responded that transporting trees of this size to St. Croix would make their price in the $4,000-5,000 range each.
"But I'm not making any money on this," she said. Instead she is charging her customers only for the cost of setting the trees up in their new homes.
Ramos said it took three weeks and the help of several experts to come up with a viable plan to get the heavy, tall trees safely out of their narrow space. One person warned her a palm was just as likely to roll into the harbor as onto the barge, but she was undaunted.
Eric, who pulled the service barge donated by a local marina and who did not want to be identified further, said hauling the trees across the water was no problem. He said the real problem was getting the crane down Kings Alley. The tires had to be deflated for it to go under arches, he said.
Ramos said she expected the trees to survive the transplant because of the special care taken: holes were dug for the trees long before they were hauled out, and none was out of the ground for very long.
All the trees were going to private homes except one royal palm, which was being donated to the University of Virgin Islands. "I know the St. Croix campus is always interested in acquiring royal palms to help restore the beautiful allee (line of tall trees) along the main entrance," she said.
Ramos said the trees were destined to be chopped up and thrown into a Dumpster before Best Construction decided to permit Antilles Design Group to take them.
Bates Trucking supplied the crane and Mark La Beet ran the backhoe.
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