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Brand new buildings, same old trees

Facilities built a temporary nursery to keep plants alive over the winter.

Walk along the north side of campus and you'll likely notice the wreckage of some of the campus's oldest buildings. Unseen, however, is the great effort that saved dozens of trees and plants from being destroyed along with the old buildings.

Since the start of the BI complex construction, facilities staff has carefully preserved more than 24 trees and shrubs. "We have very deliberately and as often as possible transplanted trees and shrubs to keep them alive," explained Director of Capital Projects Sam Ball. "We love our beautifully wooded campus and we want to preserve its character. It's part of our value system."

The facilities staff went so far as to build a nursery in Parking Lot 5 to keep the plants alive while they search for a new location; the plants will have a better chance of surviving in their new permanent spots if they are planted during drier weather. The plants have thrived happily over the winter and are now getting moved to their new locations.

ed bloch
Ed Bloch of facilities personally transplanted most of the plants around the BI building before the construction started.

When planning for large capital projects, Ball goes to great lengths to preserve trees, even designing buildings around existing large ones. For example, walk to the north side of the Performing Arts building. The wall indents to preserve the two flowering cherries.

The new student center was designed around two existing trees as well: a rare oak and a towering redwood. "The contractor has a site plan with all the trees to be saved marked right on it," explained Ball.

Ball chose the site of an old running track as the location for the Science Learning Center and Technology Center complex because it was nearly devoid of big trees. Despite these measures, however, a row of 12 large cedars was still in jeopardy, regardless of how the buildings were positioned on the site.

"Rather than remove the trees, we hired an outside contractor to move them," explained Ball. "They've easily doubled in size since then." Half the row now resides outside the PA building, and the rest of the trees reside outside of the natural resources classrooms.

This cedar was transplanted before the SC building construction. It has doubled in size since then.

The facilities staff knows the story behind every tree, most shrubs and even some of the small flowers they transplant.

For example, there was a group of flowering plants outside the old ceramics studio in the BI complex. Ceramics Lab Tech Victor Rivet, who passed away in 2012, was particularly fond of these plants. Before the BI construction began this winter, facilities employee Ed Bloch saved those plants and planted them in Rivet's memorial garden outside the current ceramics lab.

Bloch also transplanted a Japanese maple, presumably donated to the college approximately 20 years ago and now a tree of substantial size, outside the Welcome Center. On one side of the tree, you can see the branches growing at odd angles where the corner of the old building used to be.  (In its new spot, the Japanese maple is curiously surrounded by a team of moss-covered shrubs. Earlier in the season, Bloch had noticed the little plants were struggling in the shade at their old location and moved them to their current sunnier home.)

"We did everything we could to keep that tree alive," said Bloch. "If it grows new leaves in the spring, we'll know it survived."

Green River has a long and proud history of tree and plant preservation - a value system that started when the college was born. The first facilities master plan, written before the college opened in 1965, specifies "nature was the head landscaper for the college." Today's master plan names respect for the land as one of its principles.