Seven historic trees on the WVU downtown campus may be at risk for removal.
The trees, many of which date back to at least the 1890s, were the study of an audit performed by SavATree, a third-party consultant hired by the University to determine the health of the trees.
“There was some concern about the health of these trees and not only are they historic, but they’re also in heavy trafficked areas, so if a branch were to fall off, it could hurt a student, faculty or staff,” David Beaver, senior associate vice president of auxiliary and business services, said.
The trees have been affected by old age, weather and insect damage over the years, which has caused many of the problems, Beaver said, and the results of the audit will be shared with the WVU community planning commission in the coming weeks.
The community planning commission will then determine the steps taken by the University, specifically whether the trees can be salvaged, remediated or if they must be cut down.
“We don’t know what we have to do yet, we just know we have these old trees that everyone loves and they’re very important to the fabric of the University, but they’re also potential safety risks, so we’re trying to balance that,” Beaver said.
Members of the commission include a biologist, urban forester, campus arborist and a retired campus arborist, among others, according to Traci Knabenshue, sustainability director for WVU.
“These are people that know about trees and can tell by looking at some of them that they’re not the healthiest of trees either,” Knabenshue said.
Most notably of the affected trees is a sycamore tree that has stood in front of E. Moore Hall since 1819. According to Beaver, the tree has been a continual preservation effort of the University since the 1960s.
With the sycamore tree and the other affected trees standing in such a prominent place on campus, the worry of human and building safety remains, with many of these fears stemming from a 2011 incident.
“In front of Stewart Hall, there used to be a historic tree, and it actually blew over in 2011, and blew over and fell right on the sidewalk. No one was standing there, but it happens,” Knabenshue said.
The tree audit also comes after a decision to increase tree canopy — how much campus acreage is shaded by the crowns of trees — was made. The University currently sits at 8% tree canopy, but would like to increase this number to 10%, and to do so planted 40 trees across campus in late October.
No decisions will be made until after winter break and into the spring semester, but the campus community will be notified and possibly surveyed on any decisions made, Beaver said.
“They’re the ones out in front of Woodburn. There’s one out in front of E. Moore. They’re the ones people would notice, so that’s the last thing we want to do, have everyone come back and say, ‘Where’s the tree?’” Beaver said.