Kent State named Tree Campus USA

Samantha Laros

KSU one of 29 colleges to get into program

Last semester Heather White said she wanted Kent State to be the only Ohio school named Tree Campus USA.

Four other schools from Ohio applied last semester. None were accepted, said White, grounds manager for Campus Environment and Operations.

Last week Kent State became one of 29 colleges in the country initiated into Tree Campus USA. The program, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, recognizes college campuses that pay special attention to caring for and maintaining trees.

“There are five standards, and you have to do your homework on those,” White said.

White has a degree in urban forestry and has been working with trees for more than 20 years. Through the Tree Campus USA program, she can bring her passion to Kent State.

“Most of our plan really starts with preservation,” she said. “Saving trees before it’s too late.”

Todd Shaffer, construction manager at the Office of the University Architect, said the university had been working under Tree Campus criteria for years.

“We were doing the right thing,” he said. “Tree Campus USA came along and said, ‘this is what you need to do,’ and we were already doing it.”

He said when he came to Kent State, he worked closely with White, who was also new at the time, to improve the conditions of trees. Today, he plays an integral role in preserving them during construction and helped amend construction policy.

Previously, trees on construction sites were surrounded by flimsy, plastic, 4-foot-high orange fences, which contractors could walk over or remove with knives. Today in construction zones such as the small group area, trees are protected with chain-linked fences, which are posted to the ground and covered with fabric for visual appeal.

Shaffer said the university architect often struggles with the debate over whether to preserve trees or provide more work room.

Kent State developed a tree advisory committee, comprised of Shaffer, White, students, faculty and community members, to meet the foundation’s standards.

Other criteria include an annual maintenance care plan, which involves recycling and reusing tree parts.

“Any wood debris on campus, we bring it back, we break it up, we make mulch and we put it right back out there,” White said.

White is also looking forward to Arbor Day, April 24. As a newly initiated member of the program, she said Kent State must “tie Tree Campus USA into (its) other green initiatives.”

Last semester, the residence halls competed in a recycling contest. The winning hall will choose a tree to be purchased by White and planted by the residents.

White said she hopes to get students involved and evoked the name of Dr. Seuss.

“It sounds kind of hokey,” she said, “but, much like the Lorax, someone needs to speak for the trees.”

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Samantha Laros at [email protected].