The Augustana green will undergo a major renovation that will create an intramural playing field, an amphitheater and a retention pond on campus.
According to Mark Blackburn, the dean of students, to create the playing field and retention pond a few trees need to be removed. This includes the large silver maple tree to the east of the Fryxell building.
“Think about Rec Services having all of that new outdoor space for programming,” President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said. “Think about the marching band being able to practice. Think about other campus events that we like to have that will be a little easier and more inviting because we don’t have this ditch, and because we’ve been maybe more intentional.”
President Herseth Sandlin said that in order to be more intentional about the space, however, the silver maple will need to be removed.
This tree has a special place in many of the students’ and faculty members’ hearts. Some of the faculty have even given it nicknames such as “the tree of knowledge.”
John Bart, a professor of communication studies, said he was sad to hear about the plans to remove the tree he calls “the tree of knowledge” but understands how important an intramural field will be on campus.
“I think the space that they are creating is wonderful,” Bart said. “We certainly need places for students to play intramurals.”
Biology professor Steven Matzner said the tree grew longer than most would in similar environments.
“Trees in an urban area like this often only live 20-30 years,” Matzner said. “From that perspective, this is a pretty long-lived tree.”
Students have shown a similar understanding whilst mourning the big maple.
“It is sad to see such an old tree go, but I understand why,” Janae Becher, president of Augie Green, said. “I just hope they have a plan to replace the trees that are being removed.”
Administration has given thought to such concerns and has a plan concerning the soon-to-be-removed tree.
“Once the project is complete, trees will be planted to replace the ones that were removed,” Blackburn said. “There was the idea to use the silver maple tree to make chairs, but nothing is set in stone.”
Bart said there has been discussion among some of the faculty about ways that the tree can be preserved or even replanted.
“Myself, professor David O’Hara and professor Steven Matzner have been emailing about different ways we can try and preserve the tree,” Bart said.
The group discussed digging in the area around the tree to look for seeds or seedlings that could be replanted, among other things.
“One of the ways we are looking to preserve the tree is to try and take a piece of one of the limbs and graft it onto another tree,” Bart said.
According to Bart, one way Augustana will preserve the tree’s legacy is by cutting an inch long section out of the tree’s base. This will allow Augustana to preserve a small section of the tree forever.
Blackburn is interested in creating a team to work on incorporating the tree in different ways across campus.
“I think it’s important that we preserve the tree’s legacy,” Blackburn said.