Trees on an urban campus: UIC plants seeds for future
An urban campus with a total tree inventory worth about $9 million — that’s one of the many things that sets UIC apart from other universities, says Carly Rizor, superintendent of grounds for Facilities Management.
“It’s something you wouldn’t usually find in a downtown campus,” Rizor said.
Having trees on campus has many benefits, environmentalists say.
“Studies show that green spaces and trees help you study or learn better and they offset some of our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Cynthia Klein-Banai, associate chancellor for sustainability.
Since 2011, UIC has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA, an honor bestowed on college campuses that manage their trees and promote connection with nature.
“The trees are an asset, it’s something that we nurture, and they provide tangible benefits,” said Klein-Banai.
UIC departments are taking their concern for campus trees one step further.
Facilities Management, the Office of Sustainability, Parking Services and Campus Auxiliary Services partnered with Bartlett Tree Experts for a campus tree inventory. The online inventory will note tree type, diameter, canopy height, health, history, maintenance, growth, economic worth, location and other information. The inventory will include recommendations on tree management — which trees should be fertilized, pruned, thinned, removed or replanted.
Bartlett’s Inventory Solutions team will use GPS and Geographic Information Systems to collect data, develop management plans and link tree locations to campus maps or pictures.
“We’ve started doing this to identify areas on campus that have the most need for tree evaluation. Some general areas on campus will be evaluated from a health and risk standpoint,” Rizor said.
Bartlett will donate 100 trees for every year that UIC shows its commitment to tree management and maintenance.
The first 100 trees, swamp white oak saplings, were donated to UIC Parking Services in October. Employees and students planted the trees Oct. 3 in parking lots on the east and west sides of campus.
“It was to recognize the hard work of Parking Services, and its dedication in the coming years to continue having their trees monitored, pruned and properly maintained,” Rizor said.
Trees will be marked with blue metal tags to help with tree care. So far, 1,680 trees have been tagged.
The inventory and implementation of recommended management practices will take about five years. Rizor wants to make the inventory and maps available to the UIC community for tree walks and other activities.
“From a practical standpoint, for us, it’s invaluable,” she said.
Klein-Banai says she hopes the initiative will inspire a long-term connection with students that continues long after graduation.
“Some students who helped plant the last donation’s trees said, ‘I’m going to come back here in 20 years to see it.’
“Can you imagine that? What a great legacy.”