My usual commute to UNO involves parking in Elmwood Park and enjoying (or not enjoying, as seems increasingly common this spring) the weather as I walk up the sidewalk along University Drive to the Arts and Sciences Hall.
On April 5, it was a shock to me when I saw that the line of tall evergreen trees along the back of Caniglia Field, a few crabapples and one sugar maple had been cut down. It wasn’t until the next day that I saw the flyers in the passage in Health & Kinesiology announcing sidewalk closures pending the construction of the new addition to the Biomechanics Building.
“Oh,” I realized. “That’s why they cut the trees down.”
What shocked me most, however, was that trees down the hill (the sugar maple and crabapple trees) had also been cut down. While those may still be in the way of the new construction, they seemed a bit far away from the construction area.
I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone sitting under those trees to read a book, unlike the honey locusts that line the avenue along the Pacific-facing side of the Eppley Administration Building. Their position is a bit awkward and inaccessible, due to their location and the fact that the Austrian pines are outside the railings of the ramp and walkways toward Caniglia Field and ASH. The sugar maple, too, seemed stressed after last year’s long, hot summer without significant precipitation.
However, I still felt a knee-jerk nostalgia, sense of loss and even outrage when I saw the trees lying on the ground, their shadows no longer falling across the walkway I followed back to my car. It seemed strange and empty in the same way that a child’s room does when it’s finally been cleaned, months later.
According to a statement from John Amend, UNO’s assistant vice chancellor for facilities management and planning, the trees along the back of Caniglia Field were Austrian pines, several of which were in poor health. The crabapples and sugar maple weren’t mentioned. Learning that the condemned trees were already stressed cheered me somewhat, but didn’t take away my sense of loss entirely.
Amend’s statement concluded, “While the construction plan does not allow us to place replacement trees in the same area, our grounds team regularly plants new trees across the Dodge, Scott and Center campuses. It is this commitment to sustainability and environmentalism that has led the Arbor Day Foundation to name UNO a Tree Campus USA for the last eight years in a row.”
While UNO needs all the space it can get (particularly when it comes to parking) with its volume of students, even if the trees are replaced elsewhere on campus, I will still feel nostalgia for those particular trees and the empty space they left behind.