Kent State’s award-winning landscape


Kent State University students enjoy the award winning landscape on campus.. Photo by Grace Jelinek.

Rachel Jones

With winter in the rearview mirror, the flowers and trees on campus are ready to make their presence known by popping up soft petals and filling the air with a sweet perfume.

It’s hard to ignore these picturesque signs of spring. And we’re not the only ones who have been taking notice.

Groundskeeping supervisor Jacob Biltz said the landscape has earned Kent State the Tree Campus USA recognition for the last three or four years.

“We have several plaques hanging on the wall in here,” Biltz said. “We feel pretty accomplished as far as that goes.”

Kent State’s main and Stark campuses are two out of the 149 universities recognized in 2011.

Arbor Day adviser Tess Kniep said campuses must meet certain qualifications to earn this award.

“We recognize colleges and universities that effectively manage campus trees, develop connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy, urban forests, and strive to engage their student population, utilizing service learning opportunities centered on campus and community forestry effort,” Kniep said.

Each university must also meet five standards.

Standard one is a Campus Tree Advisory Committee. It’s comprised of members representing the diverse audience of those with a stake in campus trees is established and meets regularly. It can be students, faculty or community members.

Standard two is Campus Tree Care. [It’s] a plan of how to clearly take care of all of the trees and any goals or targets for how many trees to plant in a year.

Standard three is Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures. They set aside a certain amount to spend on trees.

Standard four is Arbor Day Observance. You celebrate Arbor Day every year.

Standard five is Service Learning Projects. They have volunteer tree planting or tree maintenance or tree inventory.


On a local level, groundskeeping supervisor Frank Mulneix said the campus landscape has also been recognized by the Garden Club of Kent for the last two years.

Lee Hall, membership chairperson and second vice president of the Garden Club of Kent, said the club is a group of 200 members who meet monthly to discuss their planting endeavors and share the fruits – or flowers – of their labor.

The club also has a horticulture show in August where members recognize and give out prizes to the best vegetables and flowers in the club and in the community.

To keep the campus landscape in prize-worthy condition, Biltz said the groundskeeping crew heads out daily to get new plants in and maintain the older ones.

“It’s a pretty extensive labor, especially with the new trees that are planted on campus,” Biltz said. “We have a crew of guys who go out, dig the holes and do any pruning that needs to be done. There’s a lot of weeding and spraying with weed killer.”

Biltz said the university also spends a “significant amount” on landscaping each year. The exact number was not available.

Blooming on campus these days are ornamental grasses, maple trees, oak trees, evergreens and a wide variety of annuals. These flowers bloom and die within the year they are planted.

Mulneix said they grow some flowers in the campus greenhouse and purchase the rest at landscape companies, such as Battaglia’s in Kent.

“They’re flowers native to the area that will definitely withstand the temperature and soil conditions that we have in this area,” Mulneix said.

When it comes to picking what plants to grow, Biltz said the groundskeepers meet with their supervisors and manager to plan things out. The landscape designer also chooses a lot of plants and designs based on which plants prefer sun or shade.

Despite this year’s short winter, Mulneix said they were still hesitant to plant anything new too soon.

“You don’t want to put anything in until you’re sure the frost is gone,” Mulneix said. “Anything that’s above ground [will be killed by frost]. The temperatures still have a chance of dropping below freezing, so we pretty much stay on the same schedule.”

Right now, the groundskeepers are working on planting new bulbs and pruning the already-bloomed trees, hoping to maintain the landscape’s reputation.

“Every once in a while someone will say something about it,” Mulneix said. “Students, alumni and even community members will make comments that they like the way campus looks when they drive by or walk through it.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].