We Speak for the Trees: Tree Team protects diverse environment

by Jamie Collier, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

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Jarrod Ferrell, a member of the Tree Team, prunes the Thomas Berry oak, one of the many tasks the team does to preserve and protect the trees on campus. 

Over the past five years the Berry College Tree Team has rejuvenated and maintained a diverse system of trees on campus.  The storms that swept over Berry in 2011 forever changed the landscape.  It is estimated that, in that episode, 1,200 trees were felled or had to be taken down.  During this time the grounds crew on Berry’s campus was overwhelmed and there was a great need for rehabilitation of trees.  Out of this need the Berry College Tree Team was born.  

The Tree Team had a large task ahead of them: to preserve the existing canopy and replace the trees that were lost. The Tree Team did start with a large bank of knowledge, and Brookwood Tree Consulting has helped guide the Team.  However humble their beginnings, the Team has grown substantially. Recently the Team was awarded Georgia Urban Forest Council Outstanding Student Grant.  Their work also helped to make Berry part of Tree Campus USA, a program where the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding campuses.    

After the storms, there were mass plantings of trees to replace those that were cut or removed.  Because of this, Berry is now faced with a unique dilemma.      

“What we have now is a Baby Boomer situation,” Tree Crew Student Supervisor Zachary Lemckey said. “Lots of trees are maturing at the same time.  We are trying to stagger the plantings to maintain the existing canopy.” 

Though it is easy to see where trees are cut down, it is easy to miss when they are planted.  Eight new trees have recently been planted around the soccer field and cow pastures near the Ford Buildings.  Over the next few years the team plans to cut down six trees from the area around Berry College Chapel.  All trees that are removed are replaced as closely as possible to the location of the original planting.  

Trees are maintained most commonly by vertical mulching, fertilization, watering and pruning.  Many different factors are taken into account when caring for the trees, one being the safety of people walking below.   

“We all keep an eye out when we are maintaining the trees for dead or dying branches that could be a hazard,” Tree Crew Supervisor Kevin Mason said.  

The Team has been working to take seeds from the best trees on campus and currently has a 4-acre nursery.  By taking seeds and branches from the best trees, the Team is able to produce more structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing trees for Berry’s campus and community. 

“Berry has a unique campus whose diversity of trees is one reason for its uniqueness,” Jim Watkins, associate professor of English and instructor for Environmental Studies said.  

Another benefit of the Tree Team’s work is the new Arboretum on Main Campus.  Because of the preservation done by the Tree Team, biology students were able to create the interactive walk.  

“The Arboretum is an interactive walk that allows one to learn about and admire the beauty and majesty of just a few of the trees on the world’s most beautiful campus,” Eddie Elsberry, director of environmental compliance and sustainability said.  

The work of the Tree Team provides a healthy and growing canopy on main campus and allows for Berry to grow and continue.

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