Originally the land where The Sanctuary is located was only six feet above sea level, which is as low as the current hotel parking lot. In order to have better ocean views and to be safer in the instance of storm surge, the team at Kiawah decided to raise the land to be 21 feet above sea level. As you can imagine this was one of the greatest projects involved with the development of the crown jewel of Kiawah Island, The Sanctuary. For months, dump trucks filed onto the island with load after load of dirt to raise the first floor so that guests of The Sanctuary could see the tide breaking at mid-tide. In total, there were over a quarter million tons of dirt brought onto the site.
To make this happen, hundreds of trees needed to be relocated. The tree relocation involved the movement of 160 Live Oak Trees and 200 Palmetto Tress. The team here at Kiawah joined with Designworks, LLC (our Charleston-based landscape architect) with the Texas-based company, Environmental Design Incorporated, to preserve the history of the 100 year old tress, create a magnificent entrance to the hotel, and to raise the level of the land.
The movement of the massive oak tress required us to bring in the world’s largest mechanical spade. Workers assembled the spade around each tree. Then, the blade dug a giant root ball around 8 feet deep by 14 feet wide, which the machine lifted from the ground. Next, a tractor pulled each tree to its new home where it was gently deposited. After the transplant of each tree was complete, large plastic barrels with tiny holes drilled in them were placed at the tree base and filled with water, creating a simple but effective irrigation system.
The relocation process ran slowly but smoothly as Environmental Design Inc. averaged about three tree moves per day. After months of hard work, all of the trees were transported and the one-of-a-kind historic live oak lined hotel entrance was finally completed. Lastly, all of the dirt was dumped to raise the level of the land and we became one step closer to opening one of the most luxurious hotels in the country.