Tree Planting Marks Start of Fairmont State’s Arboretum
A team of Fairmont State collaborators came together Monday to break ground for a new campus arboretum. A previously unused space on the university’s campus has been designated as a site that will be teeming with color every spring.
On Monday, Fairmont State President Mike Davis, along with Ryan Williams, president of the Creative Sustainability Council, presided over the planting of the first two trees of the arboretum.
Plans for the arboretum were set into motion when students in Professor J. Robert Baker’s honors class saw the steep hillside as an opportunity to solve a problem.
“The honors class is about finding a problem and solving it,” Baker said. “The theme for this class has been global crisis.”
As with many landscapes in West Virginia, Fairmont State’s terrain is steep in some areas of the campus, giving groundskeepers their share of challenges.
“As everyone knows we sit on a hill,” Grounds Manager Jeff Hamrick said. “Some of the locations are hard to maintain.”
Such is the case with the steep hillside near the Falcon Center, above Prichard Hall.
This hill may not be easy to climb—or walk for that matter—but it offers something that landscape architects dream of—the opportunity to create a panoramic view of a hillside brimming with color from more than a dozen blooming trees. This location, planners surmised, would be the perfect spot to transform a landscaping challenge into an attraction.
But the larger goal for the students was to address the university’s aim to reduce its carbon footprint. They recognized that planting these trees offered a greater advantage, a way to create a carbon sink on campus.
A carbon sink is simply a resource that absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces. By absorbing carbon dioxide, these trees will assist with reducing the school’s carbon footprint.
Trees are a natural choice for carbon sinks because they also serve other purposes. As trees grow, their root systems provide strong support to anchor and stabilize a hillside.
“We’re looking at a steep bank, and the tree roots will help hold the hillside from slipping or eroding,” Hamrick said. In addition, the roots will absorb a good deal of water during heavy rainfall, which assists with flood control.
Funding for the arboretum was achieved through a Falcon Mini-Grant. The grant is set up for exactly this kind of project, Baker said. His honors students applied for and received $1,875 to set up the arboretum.
Director of Environmental Stewardship Stephanie DeGroot designed the arboretum with blooming trees that are known to thrive in this region. For the initial planting, DeGroot chose the Eastern Redbud and the Flowering Dogwood. Both of these trees are known for their spectacular colors.
“The variety of trees will give the campus a different visual texture,” Hamrick said. “The colorful blooms will brighten up that area behind Prichard Hall. The campus is a beautiful place, and this will be a great addition.”
DeGroot’s plan includes an enchanting variety of trees to be planted over time, including Sugar Tyme Crabapple, Auer Flowering Pear, Styrax Japanese Snowbell, and Seven-Son Flower.
“The arboretum brings together students, faculty, staff and administrators in an exciting and ongoing project,” Baker said. “It addresses the issues of climate change, and simultaneously beautifies the campus with these flowering trees.”
As President Davis placed the first shovelful of soil around the trees, he reaffirmed the university’s mission.
“I am thrilled that we’re creating an arboretum on our campus. We are simply borrowing this space from future generations,” he said. “By adding over a dozen trees here we’re making a commitment to Falcons for years to come. I look forward to watching the hillside fill with beauty as these trees grow and blossom.”