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UIHC to remove 100-year-old trees during Children's Hospital construction

BY MARISSA MEHALEK | FEBRUARY 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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A patch of weathered trees near the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are being removed to make way for the new Children's Hospital.

University officials said five trees along Hawkins Drive have been removed, with three more to fall in the coming week as construction progresses in the area. Officials said the trees were also dead and could be safety risks for visitors of the hospital.

"This past year, we have removed five Linden trees near the UI hospitals, and I plan on removing three more Scott pines," said Jerry Liska, the head of engineering services ground maintenance near UIHC. "The main reason we are taking these trees down is primarily safety reasons."

Liska said dead trees are prone to catching on fire, forming hazards when left near an area with heavy construction.

Local arborist Andy Dahl said dead trees often had serious structural flaws and could harm those visiting the hospital. Dahl said he recommended the UI remove the trees.

"The trees posed a hazard to the pedestrians and traffic in the area, so our recommendation was to remove them," he said.

Most of the trees in the are have been around for nearly 100 years, Liska said.

An official from Gilbane construction — the company working on the hospital's projects and tearing down the trees — said it was too early in the removal process to give an estimated cost of eliminating the trees.

However, one sustainability advocate said officials need to put more effort into replenishing the area.

University of Iowa Student Government sustainability advocate Kelsey Zlevor said she knows UI Facilities Management will do what is best for the community when cutting down the trees, but she noted there is a fine line between keeping the area safe and negatively affecting the environment.

"If the tree is dead, then that does pose as a safety hazard to the community," she said. "On the flip side, you should always try to replace what you remove from the environment."

UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard said though officials are removing the trees, ongoing sustainability projects at the hospital will help the facility have an green environment.

"We will use native landscaping to replicate what was in the area prior to reconstruction and restore similar landscaping," he said.

Liska said the university does make an effort to "be green" when removing vegetation on campus.

"Instead of hauling the chopped down tree away, I make sure the tree is recycled," he said. "Waste management grinds up the chopped-down tree, and it is recycled into mulch and other substantial items that can be used in the future."


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