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Tree group hugs UI

BY SCOTT RAYNOR | DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:30 AM

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Every day is Arbor Day for Andrew Dahl.

So when the UI was named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, it gave Dahl, a UI arborist, a sense of accomplishment.

“It’s kind of a feather in our cap,” he said. “It shows us we are doing something right.”

The UI is the first university in Iowa to receive the designation, and it is one of around 50 universities nationwide, said Mary Widhelm, a program coordinator for the Tree Campus USA program.

Colleges must meet five main requirements for the award, including the observance of Arbor Day, creating a campus tree-care plan, and forming a tree advisory committee with student, faculty, and resident members, she said.

Dahl said the UI had already met most of the requirements for the designation — such as the observance of Arbor Day — but the main shift in focus was toward student and community involvement.

He cited one project last spring, when dozens of students assisted in planting more than 700 seedlings.

While the effort helped in receiving the designation, Dahl said, it had legitimate benefits.

“Even if 10 percent of them make it, that is going to help shade and cool us all,” he said. “There’s a value to that.”

The program also recommends that universities spend around $3 per full-time student on the landscaping department. Dahl said labor accounts for the largest part of the expenditures.

The UI had been spending more than the $3 figure before receiving the designation, though he wasn’t sure exactly how much the school allocates for trees.

Widhelm said around 75 percent of universities spend at least $3.

The most valuable part of the program, she said, was the example it provides to schools beginning their landscaping.

“It gives the schools that are just starting off that structure to help them to do it,” she said.

Illinois State University was among the first schools to receive the award, and officials said the majority of the work involved was the paperwork.

“I thought it would be a day or two amount of work,” said Darcy Loy, an assistant director of grounds operations at the school. “It turned into pretty much a 60-page document.”

Loy said her department has a modest budget of around $6 per student but noted that contributions from the agriculture department have greatly helped in purchasing trees.

“We feel extremely fortunate that we can do what we do with the amount of money we have,” she said.

The official ceremony celebrating the UI’s designation will take place in the spring; the university will be awarded a flag and a plaque.


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