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Missouri State University has been named a 2012 “Tree Campus USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation. The recognition comes after the university’s five year commitment to its trees and their aesthetic value to the campus.
John Clark is the assistant director of facilities management in charge of grounds services at Missouri State University. He says that when the ice storm hit Springfield in the winter of 2007, grounds crews took inventory of the surviving trees, and began mapping out the future of tree growth on campus.
Fast forward five years. In 2012, Missouri State met Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, observing Arbor Day, utilizing student volunteer projects, dedicating annual spending toward trees, and implementing a tree care plan.
Clark says MSU currently staffs a landscape architect to help with tree reforestation, as well as two professional arborists, whose primary focus is to monitor tree growth and care for mature trees.
“Today, like we have going on during spring break, we have a lift on campus. So we’re going in, we’re working on the oaks while they’re still a little bit dormant. We’re still on that line. We trim, we promote positive growth and not negative growth. We don’t want trees overlapping on the limbs, because that’s a weak point. We do ground work, where you sight and basically look at threes, and then we get up in the trees and look at them as well,” Clark said.
Clark says 150 trees were planted recently as part of the new Foster Recreation Center, and says there are plans for 45 more in the future elsewhere on campus. He says planting a variety of trees is necessary to curb diseases – on campus you’ll find a healthy dose of oak, maple, yellowwood, and ginkgo trees, among others. Clark says the facilities management is picky about how and where trees are planted. Improper planting of a tree could lead to its demise after only a few years.
“When we plant a tree, for the first two years minimum we put watering bags on them. They sit on the base of the tree. You fill up the bag, and water trickles out and doesn’t run off, it feeds the root zone specifically. We did last year have some trees that we planted three years ago that we were doing that too as well because of the dry conditions,” Clark said.
And even before a tree is planted, Clark says both the Planning and Design and Safety and Transportation departments need to approve the project. This may seem like a rather exhaustive process for a tree, but Clark says it’s all in an effort to make the campus a healthier and more attractive place to learn.