Kent State Rooted in a Commitment to Tree Care
Sixty-eight years ago, the Kent City Council and mayor dubbed Kent, Ohio, the state’s Tree City. This year marks the ninth year Kent State University is being recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA program.
Created in 2008, the Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. To be recognized by the program, colleges and universities must meet five core standards: a campus tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, annual expenditures for campus trees, service-learning projects aimed at engaging the student body and observing Arbor Day on campus.
“Being recognized as part of the Tree Campus program is a point of pride for our department and really should be a point of pride for the university,” says Heather White, Kent State's grounds manager. “We’re one of the original schools recognized by the program, and nine years later, it’s great to still be in it.”
With more than 950 contiguous acres across campus, the university is deeply rooted in its commitment to sustain an urban forest landscape.
Kent State’s grounds crew works year-round to maintain the standards set by the Arbor Day Foundation, conducting training with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and partnering with the cities of Kent, Stow and Aurora to stay up-to-date with the latest landscape maintenance trends.
The Kent Campus is home to a wide variety of plant species, from honey locusts to varieties of oak and maple trees. White says the grounds crew stays aware of what trees thrive best in an urban setting.
“Campus is an urban setting, but we are always planting around to try and mitigate the effects of an urban environment,” White says. “Anything that’s green and growing is managed by the grounds department. We work to plant the best trees, the best shrubs, to mow when and where it’s needed. It’s all on us.”
The grounds crew hosts two fall and spring planting seasons, but the staff maintains trees throughout any weather, with most pruning and maintenance occurring in the winter months.
“Trees provide a myriad of benefits to campus," White says. "They can mitigate reflected heat. They can soften or dampen noise pollution. The larger trees capture rainwater. There’s even benefits you can’t quantify. They provide a nice atmosphere, they clean our air and trees enhance health benefits, too.”