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Middlebury Becomes a Tree Campus

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I’m very (very) pleased write that Middlebury College has been named a Tree Campus for 2010, culminating work started in January of last year by the students in my Trees and the Urban Forest Winter Term class. Special thanks goes to two students in particular, Chelsea Ward-Waller and Hilary Platt, for being the driving force behind the application process, and for being strong advocates of our urban forest on campus.

I’ll quote from the letter we received-

The Tree Campus USA program is an initiative that sprang from a partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota MotorNorth America, Inc., to foster the development of the next generation of Tree Stewards. The program is designed to award national recognition to college campuses and the leaders of their surrounding communities for promoting healthy urban forest management and engaging the3 campus community in environmental stewardship.

As you already know, trees are a vital component of the infrastructure in campus landscaping, providing environmental and economical benefits. Trees in urban areas, and especially on campuses, reduce the heat island effect caused by pavement and buildings. Leaves filter the air we breather by removing dust and other particles. Properly placed trees create a welcoming environment that makes students, administration,and alumni want to be a part of the campus.

Last year there were 74 Tree Campuses across the country,and this year there are 114. Middlebury is the only campus in Vermont that is a Tree Campus, and one of only two in New England. The older program, Tree City USA, has over 3400 communities, with 8 in Vermont, including Burlington and Rutland. We all can take great pride in our trees and campus landscape, and I enjoy being part of a team that places as much value as we do on our campus environment.

The standards to become a Tree Campus are designed to create a sustainable plan to care for and manage campus trees, and to provide opportunities to engage and educate college students and community members in tree planting, benefits of trees, and in Best Management practices. To be eligible for Tree Campus USA recognition, schools must meet five core standards of tree care and community engagement: Establish a campus tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree-care plan, verification of dedicated annual expenditures on the campus tree-care plan, involvement in an Arbor Day observance, and a service-learning project aimed at engaging the student body in sustainable efforts. Collaboration is encouraged-the program is a platform for students, faculty, staff, and community members to team up and learn from one another about the benefits of trees on college campuses. Ensures true sustainability of the urban forest by joining forces with the broader forest community.

Our service learning project was a high point in the entire process. Another group of students in the Winter Term tree class worked on a complete Street Tree plan for an area in Middlebury known as Buttolph Acres. This included an inventory of existing trees, recommended locations and varieties, as well as tree planting specifications. The students also used a computer model known as iTree to estimate what the potential carbon sequestration, storm water abatement, and pollution control the tree planting would yield in 25 and 50 years. The work they put into this is amazing-I highly recommend downloading it ( Buttolph Acres Proposal ) and reading it.

And yes, we’re planning a heck of an Arbor Day (May 6). Stay tuned!

Tree Planting 2010

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Of all the work we do here in the landscape department, some of the best is the tree planting.

Think of our landscape at Middlebury as a living organism, changing and evolving. Trees have a lifespan, like us, only measured not in decades but hopefully in centuries, for the best and strongest. Site vagaries not withstanding, most species live for a similar amount of time.  A mad rush of planting one year will mean that down the road a large hole may develop in the landscape, as the same aged trees all need replacing at the same time. Take, for instance, some work being done at Utah State University.

The main quad at Utah State is lined with 80 year old Norway maples, which in Utah live about 60-80 years. Plans are underway to replant the green, and to remove the Norways before they fail. This has met with some resistance, probably based more on disappointment, as the look of a beloved quad radically changes in the space of a couple short years.

We started our tree planting this year on Arbor Day, thanks to Hilary Platt and Chelsea Ward-Waller, two of my students from Winter Term, and the driving force behind getting Middlebury to become a Tree Campus. Many students helped plant trees around Bi-Hall, and near Coffrin. The focus for this area was to help define some of the space around Bi-Hall Park, as well as planting in between Coffrin and Bi-Hall to help with storm water abatement. We used Sweet Gum there, Nyssa sylvatica, and a variety of other native trees nearby, such as Hop Hornbeam, Scarlet Oak, Red Oak, and Ohio Buckeye.

Chelsea and Friends planting

More friends planting

The second focus of tree planting this year happened later, after the rush of commencement and reunion. I enjoy this so much so I almost don’t want to tell of it.

Part of a happy and sustainable campus landscape involves diversity. Having as many different species of trees as possible ensures that should the next insect (Asian Longhorn Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer) or disease come to campus, large sections of our tree population won’t get wiped out, like the aging Norway maples at Utah State.

So I prowl nurseries and garden centers, looking for healthy plants that will do well on our campus. With such a varied landscape, it isn’t difficult to find a spot to tuck in some type of tree somewhere. We focused this year on areas of the campus lacking in tree color, and used ornamental flowering varieties of trees to liven up otherwise very static green locations. An example of this is a small section of lawn right to the north of Painter Hall.

While not a large area, comparatively, it was large enough for three small flowering trees, set in a triangle. One was a Butterflies Magnolia, small yellow flowers in early spring. Later in June will come flowers from the Yellowwood nearby, followed by a small tree in bloom now, a Heptacodium, Seven Sons Flower. More on that species in a later post-it’s spectacular.

Other areas planted include North of Warner Science, where many over-mature Sugar maples are slowly showing the effects of time, as well as along the east side of Hepburn Road, and North of Gifford.

Hoopsii Blue Spruce north of Gifford

Paperbark Maple north of Gifford

Maackia amurensis north of Stewart

Other fun varieties planted were a “Discovery” hybird Elm, Red Obelisk Beech, “Katsura” Japanese Maple, Kousa Dogwood, and Yellow Birch (the kind they make Birch Beer from). 4 Different varieties of Magnolia were planted, one red, one pink, and two yellow. In all, 32 trees have been planted so far, and a couple more are still on the way. The Tree Karma count? Not exactly sure, with all the storm damage, but I’m thinking it’s still holding at 3.5 to 1 or so.

Happy Arbor Day!

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

A final reminder to join us, 3:00, on the McCullough Plaza for a tree walk around campus, followed by a tree planting by Bicentennial Hall. Come learn about the trees around us, and make your mark on Middlebury by planting something you’ll watch grow for the rest of your life.
As part of her class project in the Trees and The Urban Forest winter term class, Laura Budd took the tree inventory of the Middlebury College Campus and ran it through iTree, modeling software that quantifies the benefits of a urban tree population. Today seems like an appropriate time to remind everyone of what our campus trees do for our environment.
2.75 million gallons of Stormwater intercepted

270,000 lbs of carbon sequestered yearly, 616,000 lbs sequestered and avoided, and 5.36 million lbs stored in total

3156 lbs of air pollutants captured or avoided, including 807 lbs of ozone, 1580 lbs NO2, 778 lbs SO2, and 503 lbs of PM10.

Arbor Day This Friday

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Come get your hands dirty, and plant some trees. Arbor Day is coming to Vermont, this Friday the 7th, and we are celebrating. Start with a Tree Tour, led by yours truly, starting at the McCullough Plaza at 3 PM, and end up at Bicentennial Hall about 4:00. Plant some trees with students around Bi-Hall, and enjoy refreshements generously provided by the Mountain Club. Once we’re done, go enjoy the all campus picnic at Battell Beach. (No, we didn’t plan that, but pretty cool nonetheless).

“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.” -Thomas Fuller

Winter Term

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Hello all, I’m back now. Thanks for your emails wondering if I am still around. I am. I had the pleasure of teaching a Winter Term course, BIOL 1003- Trees and the Urban Forest. What fun it was to join in the Middlebury experience from the faculty side, as opposed to being the staff guy with the dirt on his knees.

I love how random Middlebury is, how it appears out of nowhere, popping up in your life when you least expect a dose of academia. A good example of this was Nancy and I driving home from one of those inevitable but still unpleasant Taft Corners runs (Plato’s Closet and Once Upon a Child, have pity for me with 3 girls), and tuning the radio into WRMC, Middlebury’s own radio station. Sunday night, 4 Pm, and the show was The Jet Stream. Now granted, I’m a bit of a weather obsessive, but I was blown away by the quality of this show. Two guys, doing nothing but talking about the weather for the upcoming week. (who are you two? If you see me up in a tree on campus pruning stop and introduce yourself) Easily the best forecast discussion I’ve heard in a long time, with talk of computer models, trends, and facts for the obsessive in all of us. As high quality as the Eye on the Sky guys at noon  on Vermont Public Radio. My only comparable experience while driving was listening to a book on tape, A Brief History of the Universe by Stephen Hawking. I remember listening to that one and having to pull off the side of the road to sit and think for a little bit.

Another Middlebury random experience was just this morning, while reading Slate. The article was on Lost, and it mentioned another article by Jason Mittell. I thought I’d recognized the name, and sure enough, he’s in the Middlebury faculty. It’s not a small world, it’s just random.

Winter Term was a blast. I was warned by someone-it comes at you fast. Did it ever. 4 days a week of classes for four weeks didn’t even leave enough time to sneeze. The class did a couple of large service projects I’ll be writing about in the upcoming weeks. One was the start of applying to the Arbor Day Foundation to become a Tree Campus. Another was developing a street tree plan for an area in Middlebury known as Buttolph Acres. Yet another was taking the Middlebury Campus Tree Map and running the information through a computer model called iTree to determine stormwater abatement, pollution control, and carbon sequestration, among other items. Good blog fodder until the landscape starts greening up to be sure.

What an honor to work with Middlebury students. It was an experience I won’t forget for a long time, and one should the stars align correctly again I’d love to repeat. 23 students, all smarter than I am, teaching me as much as I was teaching them. Hopefully I’ll get a little random as well.