Auburn University students rally, raise money for poisoned trees
Facebook group that includes rival fans has raised more than $36,000 to help save or replace the oaks at Toomer's Corner.
Tue, Feb 22 2011 at 10:16 AM
CAMPUS ICONS: It's tradition for the trees at Toomer's Corner to get draped in toilet paper when Auburn wins a football game. (Photo: hz536n/Flickr)
Hundreds of Auburn University students and fans gathered in Toomer's Corner on Saturday to show their love of the university's famous trees, which were poisoned recently by a jealous football fan.
"They're Auburn," Auburn junior Kristen Easterling told CNN. "They're the heart of the town. They're 130 years old."
The rally was organized via Facebook, where more than 57,000 people — including Alabama fans — have joined a page called Tide for Toomer's, which was created to raise money for the poisoned trees. As of Monday morning, more than 1,700 donations totaling more than $36,000 had been raised, according to the page. The donations will go to the newly created Auburn University Toomer's Trees and Tradition Fund, which promises to "do whatever it takes to save, replace, or find an alternative for the Toomer's oaks to help continue our celebrations and traditions, and protect not just the gateway to our campus, but all of Samford Park long into the future."
Meanwhile, Auburn University officials are doing what they can to try to save the famous trees. According to a report from Alabama station WXTX, the soil around the two trees was removed on Monday morning, several days after being treated with activated charcoal to try to absorb as much of the poison from the ground as possible. Using guidelines provided by Dow, the makers of the Spike 80DF herbicide, the university has removed 18 inches of soil, taking it down to the clay around the roots. They are also cutting some of the roots while trying to preserve as much of them as possible.
The trees have also been placed behind barricades and tarps have been set up to prevent any rainwater from further spreading the herbicide. Spike 80DF is water soluble.
Meanwhile, Harvey Almorn Updyke, who was arrested on criminal mischief charges on Thursday, was released Friday on $50,000 bail. Officials learned of the alleged poisoning after a man called a radio talk show, saying he had poisoned the trees in response to the outcome of the Auburn-Alabama football game, which Auburn won.
WBRC reports that 62-year-old Updyke has lost his first attorney, who removed himself from the case citing a potential conflict of interest, as the attorney is also a part-time professor at Auburn. His second attorney may also step down because his wife also works for Auburn.
Despite their long-standing rivalry, University of Alabama fans have also turned out in support of the Toomer's Corner trees. "We've always said we have a huge rivalry — it's one if the biggest rivalries in the South if not the nation," rally organizer Erin St. John told CNN. "And yet 'Bama fans are telling us constantly they really regret what happened, that they are on our side, and that they're praying for the Toomer's trees."
University officials told WXTX they still have little hope that the trees will survive, but they won't know for sure until spring.
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