Southeastern surveying trees, updating master plan
Contact: Christina Chapple
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SURVEYING SOUTHEASTERN’S TREES – Southeastern Louisiana University general studies major Whitney Cooper, Horticulture Services Director Sid Guedry, and Assistant Director Kathleen Stites measure the girth of one of the university’s many live oaks. Southeastern is inventorying all trees to contribute to a landscape overlay of its master plan.
HAMMOND – The Southeastern Louisiana University campus has long been recognized for its landscaping of towering pines, majestic moss-draped live oaks and a wide variety of flowering shrubs and bushes.
As part of an update of its award-winning master plan, the university is conducting a comprehensive tree inventory to count, map and evaluate the health of all the foliage on its approximately 365-acre main campus.
“We are committed to maintaining the park-like atmosphere that has characterized Southeastern for more than 80 years,” said Interim President John L. Crain. “We love our trees and always hate to see any of them go. Unfortunately, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, lightning strikes, and simple age, inevitably some trees have to be removed.”
In 2001, students in a nursery management class taught by Sid Guedry, director of horticulture services, recorded 2,059 trees of 53 species on Southeastern’s campus, predominantly loblolly pines and 10 species of oaks. While the overall condition of the trees was good, four years later Hurricane Katrina blew through campus, downing or damaging approximately 150 trees.
“We still have some storm-damaged trees, as well as trees that have reached maturity,” said Guedry. “They need to removed as part of our normal landscape maintenance and reforestation program. In some cases, they also represent some serious safety concerns.”
Guedry said university landscaping crews continually monitor campus trees, keeping an eye on those that are reaching their life span or have been stressed by weather or disease.
Over the last 12 months, he said landscaping crews have planted 126 trees, including large specimens of Shumard and live oaks.
“We follow our Southeastern history,” Guedry said. “The landscape theme has been to plant oaks, azaleas, camellias. For every tree we remove, we plant another.”
The task of counting and recording the vital statistics of Southeastern trees has been given to general studies major Whitney Cooper of Hammond, a non-traditional student who has taken a number of Southeastern horticulture classes.
“I’m so lucky to be associated with this project,” Cooper said, as she circled a tape measure around the huge trunk of a spreading oak, one of the campus’ 19 named and registered live oaks. “Plants and working outdoors are my huge passion in life.”
Under the supervision of Guedry and landscape architect Kathleen Stites, assistant director of horticulture services, Cooper began in early August to record the location, height, girth and condition of each campus tree. Guedry plans to use geographical positioning system (GPS) software to map the trees on a new landscape overlay for the master plan.
“We will be able to pinpoint on a map where every tree is on campus and keep a record of information such as when it was fertilized and pruned,” said Guedry.
Guedry said Southeastern’s urban forestry management program of tree planting, care and culture is shaped by a number of factors, including new construction. When the 2001 tree inventory was conducted, Southeastern has just completed three major building projects, Fayard Hall, the Pennington Student Activity Center and an addition to the War Memorial Student Union. Since then, the Cate Teacher Education Center has been expanded and Strawberry Stadium renovated. New construction has included the Biology Building, the four-story “intermodal” parking garage and eight new residence halls.
Landscaping projects are also underway in two high profile locations – historic Friendship Circle and SGA Drive. With interior parking removed and the addition of brick seating walls, the Western Avenue circle anchored by the university’s oldest landmark, Friendship Oak, is being turned into an even more park-like setting -- ideal for campus gatherings and fan tailgating. SGA Drive, which flows south from University Avenue at the campus’ main north entrance, is being lined with a boulevard of 14 Shumard oaks.
Director of Facility Planning Ken Howe said both landscaping projects were part of the original master plan. Prepared in 1998 by Holly and Smith Architects and Architects Southwest of Lafayette, the master plan helps guide land use decisions.
“We use it to check ourselves on all big decisions,” he said. “It is interesting to see how well the plan has worked for us in deciding such things as locating new buildings. Every five years or so, it is time to update and reexamine some of the details.”
Projects on the drawing board include the expansion of the Kinesiology and Health Studies Building to house the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, new classroom and laboratory buildings and another student union expansion.
“All that will be interjected into the updated master plan,” Howe said. “It helps to show how Southeastern’s next wave of development will occur.