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Basking Ridge rallies behind 600-year-old white oak tree

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BASKING RIDGE, N.J. — If this white oak could talk, what an amazing story this 600-year-old tree would tell.

It's called the "Holy Oak" and it just may be the oldest white oak in the world.

"This tree came to life before Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world," said Jon Klippel, a member of the church planning council for the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, the ground that the white oak sits on.

George Washington is said to have picnicked under its leafy branches with his buddy Marquis de Lafayette.

But white oaks generally live 300 years. So with the holy oak now older than 600 years old, clearly this once gorgeous tree is beginning to show its age.

"There's hope for us and there's hope for the Holy Oak," the church's pastor Dennis Jones  told PIX11. "We are trying to prolong its life, respecting it and treating it with dignity but also protecting the safety of Basking Ridge residents."

The Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, and actually, the entire town, was built around this tree.

At 100 feet tall with a branch span of 130 feet and a trunk circumference of 20 feet, this oak seems mighty enough. However, it's bald on top, at its crown and even now in the middle.

Tree experts have been brought in to see how to cure the white oak's failure to thrive and how to make it green up top once again.

"It's still going to be a magnificent tree," Klippel said, "but it may not be the Norman Rockwell version."

To say the Holy Oak means a lot to the young and old of Basking Ridge is putting it mildly.

"I like it," 5-year-old Coraline Kirchner told PIX11.

"It's an icon for everyone," said Nancy DiSisto, a member of the church. "It's sad to see the state that it is in, but there is always hope."

The Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church is celebrating its 300th birthday next year and church members are hoping and praying the Holy Oak will still be here and thriving.