Large Trees Move From Summit Street to the Center for the Performing Arts
Kent State University’s Office of the University Architect and University Facilities Management, both part of the Division of Business and Finance, collaborated in an effort to unearth several large trees on Summit Street and relocate them outside the Center for the Performing Arts on Main Street.
The trees, which are 5-12 inch caliper in diameter and up to 20 feet tall, were transplanted to prepare for road expansions and other construction on Summit Street as part of the Summit Street Improvement Project.
While it may be easier to cut a tree down than relocate it, Heather White, grounds manager at University Facilities Management, says the university is always looking for ways to keep the trees rather than cut them down.
“We’re a Tree Campus USA university, one of the original 29 in the country, so if we’re cutting down a tree it means we have no other options,” White says. “It’s really been great between the Office of the University Architect and University Facilities Management to think outside the box on how to invest in the university.”
When choosing a new location for the Summit Street trees, Brian Pickering, Kent State project manager II and landscape architect, and White decided to move the trees to the Center for the Performing Arts to make up for a loss of trees due to construction projects in that area last summer.
“In order to make the necessary upgrades to the walkway and the entrance, we were unable to keep some of the existing trees,” Pickering says. “Others closer to the building were preserved through the addition of newly constructed walls.”
Saving Healthy Trees
When Kent State decided to make the sidewalk outside the Center for the Performing Arts more handicapped accessible, it had no other choice but to cut down the existing trees and start with a new plan for the streetscape. Pickering says the existing trees that were removed were near the end of their lifespan and had begun to show decline.
“This project was important because of the collaboration and teamwork between University Facilities Management and the Office of the University Architect,” Pickering says. “The scale of this project was bigger than previous efforts.”
Unlike the trees outside the Center for the Performing Arts, the Summit Street trees were in great shape, so moving them to a new location was a realistic option.
“They were good candidates because they’re the right size,” White says. “They’re very healthy, and we’ve moved trees this large, so we knew we could do it successfully. We all feel a little angst when we cut down something that’s alive and healthy.”
Tree Moving Day
The first tree moved to its now permanent location on Dec. 3. Several others moved the week of Dec. 21. White says the move was much easier when the semester ended as there were significantly fewer people in Kent.
“It seemed like it was an extraordinarily busy Thursday when we moved the first tree, so we switched gears and decided we’d approach this again when the students were gone,” White says. “That way, we were able to go all the way to Main Street, cut across Main Street, jump the curb and sidewalk and approach from the north. There were no obstructions that way.”
The university hired an outside contractor, Busy Bee Services Ltd., to help move the trees across campus. Mark Hoenigman, president of Busy Bee Services Ltd., says the biggest challenge of moving large trees like this is not moving the tree itself; it’s people.
“They don’t pay attention, and they don’t stay away from the areas we’ve blocked off,” Hoenigman says. “People have a tendency to walk out in front of us or try to drive around us, which is the hardest and most stressful part of the whole process. Things like this create safety risks for both them and us.”
White says that moving the first tree was a spectacle, and she was not surprised that people stopped to watch the process.
Hoenigman says the tree’s canopy was so large that he and his team had to drive down the center of the road to avoid catching the branches of other trees. This, of course, resulted in interested bystanders and traffic flow issues.
“It did cause a number of stares, and a woman followed us with her camera,” White says. “She just thought it was outstanding.”
Once all of the moves are completed, 19 total trees will have been moved. Six trees have been moved to the Center for Performing Arts, two will be moved to the Center for the Visual Arts parking lot, six will be moved to the Bowman Hall parking lot, two will be moved along the building facing Terrace Drive and three will be moved to the C-Midway Parking Lot along Main Street.
“Trees have value in our lives, and that value can be aesthetic or sentimental,” Hoenigman says. “Some of the trees we moved at Kent State had those values.”