An old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This simple, yet profound thought can apply to just about anything in life; however, in this case, we will be talking about actually planting trees.
For quite a while, there has been extensive thought and discussion as to how to best approach the declining trees on the Texas A&M University campus. Many trees on campus were in sharp decline – with no chance of recovery – and something needed to be done to provide future generations of Aggies with a guaranteed living laboratory. The ultimate objective of this improvement project is preservation and restoration by looking to assess and address the trees’ health.
Prior to beginning any work, members of SSC Grounds and TAMU Facilities & Dining Administration consulted with University horticulture faculty and certified arborists who have extensive education and experience in assessing trees.
“This is the first time in at least fifteen years that the University has had the opportunity to embark on this type of project where we can have such a direct impact on the physical environment now and for the next thirty to forty years,” says Bill Cox, Assistant Director, TAMU Facilities & Dining Administration. Mr. Cox goes on to say, “Our hope is to be able to do more of these types of projects to improve the overall health and quality of the tree canopy as funding becomes available.”
On February 11, work began in Academic Plaza on a tree restoration and replanting project, which is a collaboration of SSC’s Grounds Department, TAMU Facilities & Dining Administration and the Office of the University Architect. SSC Grounds is thrilled to have two certified arborists on staff, Joseph Booth and JJ Aguilar. During every step of the project, either Joseph or JJ is onsite monitoring every aspect of work being done. Safety is at the forefront of the project; the work zones are clearly marked with cones, signs and caution tape. Trees will only be planted where the soil has been improved and the appropriate irrigation can be provided to help them flourish. Some of the prominent species being planted are live oak, crepe myrtle and other species that will thrive in our climate.
Mike Teal, SSC Grounds Manager over Landscape Construction and Heavy Equipment states, “We are taking a holistic approach to improving the overall health and diversity of our campus trees. These health struggles include construction activities, compaction/soil issues, disease, water issues, aging, etc. We are incorporating some soil remediation processes into this project in order to try to relieve some of the stress on existing trees. We are also selecting tree species based on site specific environmental conditions, and with the intent of creating a little more species diversity on campus. Other aspects of tree health that we will be evaluating are the maintenance and watering practices, to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure the future of these trees.”
This project ties in with the campus’ tree inventory and is being updated throughout the course of this project.
Texas A&M University is a Tree Campus USA® university, meaning it is part of a program that helps colleges and universities around the country establish and sustain healthy community forests. The work being done with the tree restoration and replanting project aligns well with the Tree Campus USA® mission and goals for canopy cover. For more information on Tree Campus USA®, please visit https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecampususa/
When asked about his thoughts on the impact of the project on campus, first-year student and Aggieland Yearbook staff member Joey Ward reflected, “It will take some time for the new trees to give back to the look in Academic Plaza. As they mature, the impact will be greater and I think some of the younger students will have a better connection to the trees because they will see the trees grow alongside them as they go through college.”
Mike Teal summed up the project really well when saying, “The overall health of the trees really sets the character for the entire campus experience, and we now have the opportunity to improve that first impression.”
Stay tuned for more updates on the project in future newsletter issues.
Thanks to those who contributed to this article:
David Brown, TAMU Office of the University Architect
Bill Cox, TAMU Facilities & Dining Administration
Phillip Zellner, SSC Regional Director of Operations-Grounds
Mike Teal, SSC Grounds Manager of Landscape Construction & Heavy Equipment
Joseph Booth, Certified Arborist (SSC Grounds)
JJ Aguilar, Certified Arborist (SSC Grounds)
Joey Ward, Texas A&M University First-Year Student