Kutztown University plants 47 trees on campus

Submitted photo by David Reimer Trees being planted along Kutztown Road on Kutztown University's Campus last week.
Submitted historical photos courtesy of KU

About 47 trees are being planted on Kutztown University’s campus.

Funded by the Facility Department’s end of year remaining operational funds placed in a dedicated landscaping fund, the main reason for the plantings along the Main Street/Route 222 corridor was to replace existing trees lost over the last decades in that area.

“The University wishes to reestablish a street lined corridor enhancing the link between North and South campus and to minimize the impact of a major roadway dividing the campus,” David Johnson, Assistant Director University Relations/Communications writes to The Patriot. “The trees when mature will frame the corridor and accent the architecture of the historic buildings in this area.”

He added that, “The poor health and high pedestrian and vehicular risk caused by the remaining trees in this area have been taking into account in this new planting.”

Trees of concern will be removed over the next 5 to 10 years as the new plantings grow.

“Additional Sycamore trees in the Alumni Plaza area in front of Old Main and beside the Graduate Center are being introduced in order to allow them to grow so that when the existing magnificent specimen eventually dies and has to be taken down, the replacement trees will already be in place. It is impossible to replace a 50-100 year old tree immediately after it is removed. Proper long term planning is a must in order to maintain the campus heritage and legacy tree assets,” writes Johnson.

When completed 47 new trees will have been planted along the main dividing road corridor of the campus extending from the light at the intersection of College Boulevard and Route 222/Main Street and the intersection at Route 222/Main Street and South Campus Drive.

There will be a mixture of Blue Atlas Cedar, Parrotia, Red Baron Crabapple, Kousa Dogwood, Black Gum, and in the Alumni Plaza green space, Sycamore. All plantings are selected in accordance with the Campus Heritage Tree Master Plan completed in 2011, according to Johnson. This document is available for review upon request.

“The distance between the plantings depends upon the species and the final effect desired. These specifics are determined by the Certified Master Arborist and communicated to the contractor as appropriate,” Johnson wrote.

Planting was originally scheduled for October but was delayed “due to an inability to achieve proper utility markings required by the State One-Call System before disturbing ground in the planned locations of the trees.”

Tree planting began the week of Dec. 2, and, depending on the weather, it is anticipated to be completed by the end of the week of Dec. 9.

Johnson said the contract for the specified trees, planting, appropriate initial watering and/or fertilization and a warranty against loss was competitively bid. The successful bidder was Kohler Landscapes LLC, 307 Kohler Hill Road, Kutztown, for $20,285. The other two bids received were $25,500 and $24,035.

“The University takes a very proactive approach to tree plantings in accordance with the 2011 Heritage Tree Master Plan,” writes Johnson. “Though one goal is to provide an aesthetically pleasing, calming and serene environment not only for our students faculty and staff, but for our local community members, other purposes are for the following very specific to Kutztown University reasons:

Academics: The trees planted on campus are chosen to provide a varied and diverse educational arboretum for our students and are used as such on a routine basis.

Historic Continuity and Respect for the Past: The University is recognized for its attention to the preservation of its past and campus trees are part of that legacy. The attached photograph shows a section of walkway in front of Old Main in the early 1900.’s.

Community: Providing and Maintaining a campus resource that compliments the local community environment and allows for a welcoming, safe and accessible place of respite is part of the University’s partially public funded mission.

Student, Faculty and Staff Recruitment: 60 percent of high school seniors make their final selection of which college to attend based upon the campus appearance, quality of buildings, and “feel” for the maintenance, safety and security of the institution.

Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship: Trees provide oxygen for us to breathe, act as pollutant filters, clean the soil (phytoremediation), muffle urban noise as well as a stone wall, slow storm water runoff and help to prevent flooding (one tree when full grown can intercept more than 1,000 gallons of water annually), shade and cool to help reduce energy usage of surrounding buildings, act as windbreaks, fight soil erosion, and are carbon sinks. Trees, to produce their own food, absorb and lock away carbon dioxide in the wood, roots and leaves.”

Johnson notes that since 2009, the University has been required to remove 190 trees and has added 415.

“These 415 trees, assuming a three inch caliper at planting, removed an estimated 18,675 pounds of carbon from the air, and this amount will increase proportionally as they grow.”

How is this project being funded? Does it affect the budget?

Johnson responded that “the Facility Department’s end of year remaining operational funds not expended through the fiscal year due to unfilled employee positions (short term vacancies), savings on energy or renovation and construction projects, and other projected and budgeted expenses not realized have been put aside into a separate continuing sinking fund in order to properly plan for these expenditures without impacting annual budgeting scenarios.”

“This dedicated landscaping fund has been funded in this manner starting in 2004. Therefore, some of these funds could effectively be considered coming from operating budget savings of 10 years ago. If this money was not available, these expenditures would not be made,” writes Johnson. “However, proper planning and responsible fiscal stewardship allows for this kind of work to continue to occur.”

Johnson noted that the tree planting project “does not in any way affect or impact the annual operating budget of the University.”

“These funds have been saved and dedicated for this purpose over a long period of time.”

Johnson explained that the amount of funds available to put toward long term dedicated funding accounts vary from year-to-year depending on the status of the budget expenditures at the end of the fiscal year.

“Such funds are one-time funds only because they cannot be counted on in future years and therefore cannot be inserted into future budgets to try to make up for cuts elsewhere,” he writes. “If funds such as these were to be tied to an annual operating budget, and the projected budget savings were not repeated or realized, the University would find itself in a budget deficit position which it is not allowed to be in.”

Johnson emphasized that the University, as the Commonwealth, MUST operate on and meet a balanced budget.

“It is impossible to project actual spending on an annual basis 100 percent, so in an appropriately conservative managed budget scenario, there will always, almost by definition, be some level remaining funds to carry over for other approved and planned single time funding needs,” he writes. “The amount of those funds will vary over time and will be decreased as budget tightening occurs.”

Johnson also wanted it noted that the Facilities Department “prides itself on operating at the margin (not too much, not too little) on an annual budgeting basis in order to provide as much potential resources for the overall academic and other missions of the University as possible.”

“With proper long term planning and appropriate and consistently responsible use of year end funds, the highs and lows of annual budgeting scenarios over the decades of the University’s existence (going on 150 years) can be leveled out to provide one time, single use funds to continue to carry out its physical plant stewardship responsibilities even in the toughest of times,” he writes.

“One time, single use funds are gone once spent and therefore cannot and should not be considered in annual budgeting scenarios. If the money has been planned for and is available then small project expenditures such as this tree planting one can be executed. If it is not there, then it would not be accomplished, but either way, it does not reflect on or impact the planning for annual budget expenditures. This is the basis for the manner in which the planting of trees along the Main Street/ Route 222 corridor.”

Provided by KU Relations

2000-Kutztown University Policy A&F-019 Tree Replacement, Protection, and Evaluation Policy went into effect (Reviewed 8/2007 and 8/2009….approved by the University Administrative Council)

· The purpose of this document was to establish a formal policy and plan for the care and stewardship of the campus natural assets represented by the tree population at that time, and for the future planning of this campus asset

o Established a 1 for 1 replacement policy for trees removed for any reason. This replacement policy was originally developed in response to comments from the Maxatawny Township Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors during land development reviews on future building plans of the University

o Established planting guidelines and addressed utility conflict plantings

o Created the first recommended tree selection list for use by planners and designers when replacing trees—reviewed and approved by the Biology Department Representative

o No dedicated annual operational budget was established to implement many of the recommendations of the policy

2006-Safety Hazards of Existing Tree Population Revealed

· a significant storm downs a large pine tree near Stratton across main pedestrian pathways. Although no accidents or injuries occurred, it heightened the concern about potential risk to the campus community and the public at large of the state of the current tree inventory.

· a few weeks later, another storm falls another tree, this time across main street. Again, luckily no accidents or injuries occurred, but the safety of the existing tree population became an extreme concern.

2006-Campus Tree Safety Assessment

· As a result of the downed trees, an immediate safety survey was undertaken. Tomlinson Bomberger, a contracted vendor with expertise in this area, was hired to assess 226 trees primarily in the “Main Street Corridor” and make recommendations based on a variety of risk factors

o 226 trees were evaluated

o 22 were recommended for immediate removal

o 43 trees were recommended for cabling and bracing

o Recommendations that required action and where action was approved, were completed promptly.

2008- Will Meeker, Board Certified Master Arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture, was hired as Assistant Director of Campus Services.

This hiring gave us in-house expertise that the University was lacking previously. His duties include inventorying and assessing the tree population, developing a campus wide educational arboretum, making recommendations for removals and new plantings, reviewing landscaping plans for new construction projects, representing the Facilities Department on the Campus Beautification committee, long term landscape planning, and serving as a project manager for new plantings, as well as other grounds, logistical and automotive responsibilities.

2009-Davey Resource Group completed a more intensive and complete inventory and assessment of the campus trees

· The inventory process included GIS location of all campus trees, development of a database of health, condition, age, type species and genus, and marking of the trees with inventory numbers.

· This database is updated when trees are added or removed. Additionally it is updated periodically addressing new risks, tree health, construction damage around roots, etc.

o It serves as a tool to track current trees, predict future locations, coordinate infrastructure and plantings, provides a formula to recommend removals based on risk factors, and allows us to track other exterior assets other than trees, such as garbage can locations, benches, lights, water meters, etc.

· A final written report was submitted in addition to the database. This document made recommendations and serves as a guideline for managing the inventory.

· This report made a recommendation of the immediate removal of 50 trees from the campus inventory and extensive pruning

2011- The Heritage Tree Landscape Master Plan (HTLMP), a subset of the overall Campus Master Plan, was completed.

· This plan took the previous tree resources, data and inventories along with updated and new data and combined this information with the various campus master plans to ensure proper coordination.

· The HTLMP assumed the trees are a semi-dynamic resource in that they are living organisms that live and die. As a result a plan needed to be in place to manage existing trees, recommend removals based on risk and safety, balance out other aspects of existing campus master plans and plant trees that make logical sense for the long term.

· It is important to note that some of the trees on campus are over 100 years old and at, nearing, or over their expected useful life for a campus environment. They simply can’t be replaced when they die or pose to much risk to leave them standing. Thus a continuous phased replacement strategy over time that creates a diverse age pool and species selection was recommended and implemented.

· The plan also provides guidance and recommendations for planting procedures, tree species, and tree locations.

o Part of the HTLMP produced multiple concept plans for future projects by assessing the various locations of the campus and making recommendations based on multiple variables (the Main Street Tree Project is one of those plans). The HTLMP expanded the 1 for 1 replacement strategy as directed in Kutztown University Policy A&F-019 Tree Replacement, Protection, and Evaluation Policy by recommending an inch for inch strategy when Heritage or Legacy trees are removed. Heritage and Legacy trees are not to be removed or disturbed except for extraordinary circumstances.

· The plan recommended an initial expenditure of $324,113 to address deferred maintenance of the tree assets on campus with an additional annual recommended expenditure averaging $93,566 (in 2009 constant year dollars) for the period of 2011-2025.

o Actual expenditures on deferred maintenance to try to catch up on past inattention AND annual maintenance expenditures to keep up were approximately $138,000 from 2009 through 2013, or an average of $27,600

· The plan recommended the hiring of a tree maintenance technician dedicated to managing the University’s tree resource

o Due to budgetary reductions, this position was never hired and instead several positions on the combined landscape and logistics work unit were eliminated.

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.