The Brutal Uprooting of a Peaceful Tree

Heather Brown

Earth Day, a day to reflect upon the natural wonders of this world and take action to protect them. Earth Day here on the University of New Haven campus saw tables in the student center that offered ideas on how to make our world a greener place one light bulb at a time, talk of the new Sustainability Living Learning Community for next year, and trees being ripped out of the ground.

For living on a campus trying to take an important step toward a greener world, I find it ironic that the poor trees outside of the student center patio had no respite from the tree-moving machines and the workers that operate them. Please don’t get me wrong with this. I am extremely happy that the university chose to relocate the trees rather than cut them down. I am, however, opposed to the methods used to relocate the trees.

While sitting in the Echlin Dining Hall with a close friend of mine during breakfast last Thursday, I noticed a truck pulling up onto the patio with a tree-digger on the back of it. I had not seen this machine at work so I was excited to see what it did and how it was done.

The process started out how I expected it would with the truck being backed up to the edge of the tree and the digging end of the machine was lowered into the ready position. After the hydraulics had pushed the large metal wedges into the ground around the tree it was raised up out of the ground. Here is where the problems started.

The first thing we noticed after the tree was taken out of the ground was the large amount of roots dangling from the bottom. Everything I have learned about trees leads me to believe that if a majority of the roots are damaged or cut off the tree will not survive. Apparently the tree moving company believes otherwise because they cut off quite a bit of the root system.
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Along with this article, you will find a diagram of a tree and its root system. For your enjoyment I have indicated my estimate for how much of the root system the moving machine actually captured and moved with the tree. Even if this estimate is not as accurate as I believe it to be, it is clear that the majority of the root system remains buried around the patio.

While the roots were hanging, one of the workers began hitting them with a shovel. Clearly feeling that this wasn’t being done thoroughly enough, a second worker joined in with a rake. I still don’t fully understand what the tree was being hit with a rake and a shovel. The only thing they were accomplishing was making the dirt fall off but since the roots were being buried in more dirt there shouldn’t have been a need to beat up the tree.

The two assailants did uncover a wire basket that had been used to keep the ball of roots together while it was being shipped to the university before planting it originally. This wire wouldn’t hurt the tree at all because the roots will just grow through it. The only logical explanation I can come up with for the roots being cut off of the tree is that the basket never should have been buried in the ground to begin with, but that’s an issue for another editorial if it’s true.

In the end, all of the roots hanging out below the machine were cut off. Some of the roots were over two inches in diameter. While transporting the tree to its new home, it was driven through the line of trees along the road between Bartels and Dodds in such a way that many branches broke off. Why the trees on the outside weren’t removed first I have no idea.

I would also like to point out that the expansive root systems of the removed trees have been left underground. Anyone who has cut down a tree will soon notice that the roots and stump begin to degrade and a sink hole is created. I think this is worth looking into to make sure the new renovation/addition to Bartels doesn’t have to be renovated again in two or three years because the ground has shifted.

In speaking with students about this issue I have come across something that I have brought up to President Kaplan himself: we were not consulted. While we did know that the trees were being moved we did not really know where they were going. We knew that the trees were going in between Botwinik and the Rec Center but what about when there was no more space? Students that I have spoken with think the arrangement looks shabby and not put together. It almost looks like an unfinished project in that there should be more to bring everything together.

Students are also confused about why the university had new mulch brought in and planted new flowers after the trees were dug up and the area was prepared for construction. They are mainly concerned that with all of the budget cuts the university must make because of the economy there are better things the money could be spent on. I understand that we want to present a favorable image to prospective students on Accepted Student Days, but I also think it’s perfectly fine to show that we are getting ready for construction since we are hyping it up so much.

In researching how trees should be moved and taken care of I noticed that one of the first warnings was to take care of the roots. warns to “be aware of the root system when digging and aerating around trees to avoid cutting too many roots.” The experts at Lowes also warn against construction around trees in general as the heave equipment could damage the root system. This leads me to worry about the trees in the Maxcy Quad. Those trees are among the largest and oldest on this campus and should be protected.

In conclusion, we as a community of adults striving for a greener world should make sure we are accomplishing those goals rather than just making it look like we are. Yes the trees were moved, but I do not believe that they were moved in the right way.

-Heather Brown, Staff Writer