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Volunteers restore flowering trees to KU's Campanile hillside

University of Kansas senior Robert Adams, Peachtree City, Georgia, tosses a couple handfuls of dirt from a hole as he and junior Alex Collier, St. Louis, level it before planting a crabapple tree on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 next to the Campanile on the campus of the University of Kansas. These two and several others worked to plant a total of 24 trees at the top of the hill just off of Memorial Drive.

Cold temperatures and even colder gusts of wind couldn’t keep Alex Collier away from the hill above Potter Lake Friday afternoon.

In his three years as a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, he’s never missed a Replant Mount Oread workday with his brothers.

More than 20 volunteers gathered Friday near the Campanile to plant about as many trees — mostly crabapples, plus a few redbuds — along the steps leading toward KU’s Marvin Grove and Potter Lake.

“It’s kind of fun volunteering,” said Collier, a junior from St. Louis, taking a break from digging early Friday afternoon. “Getting to see actual change on campus is pretty neat.”

Especially, he added, when it’s along the same “beautiful” route he walks every day on his way to classes. The Campanile project might be Collier’s favorite Replanting Mount Oread project yet, he said.

The KU initiative aims to restore historic and locally significant tree species to the KU campus, encouraging community members to take pride in their university by helping with the replanting efforts.

“When we started this we were losing a lot of trees on campus, partially because of age, but also to disease and other things,” said Jeff Severin, director of campus planning and sustainability at KU.

Since former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s ceremonial planting of a redbud along Jayhawk Boulevard in 2012, the project has restored dozens of trees (at least) to the KU campus.

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University of Kansas facilities worker Shawn Harding works to position a crabapple tree upright within ...

Over former Chancellor Deane Malott’s 12-year tenure, his wife, Eleanor, led efforts to plant more than 1,000 crabapple trees around campus. Many of those trees, planted between 1939 and 1951, are now on the way out, Severin said.

“With this project especially, the historical aspect of having crabapple trees flowering here around the Campanile was something we tried to recreate or replant because a lot of those trees have come to the end of their lives,” he said.

Past Replant projects have included the restoration of crabapple trees near Fraser Hall and along Irving Hill Road behind the residence halls on Daisy Hill. Severin said replanting spots are often chosen based on their personal connections to students, staff and others in the university community.

Workdays, he said, usually attract anywhere from 20 to 60 volunteers. Friday’s headcount was a little low but enough to get the job done, Severin said, thanks in part to the greek chapters and other student organizations that return year after year.

Robert Adams, a senior from Peachtree City, Ga., said he enjoys being able to give back to his school through Replant projects. He’s always happy to share the experience with his Alpha Tau Omega brothers, but he also sees the project as a worthwhile opportunity for folks outside greek life or the campus community.

Anyone can join in, he said.

“I think sustainability is a very critical issue — going green is something a lot of people want to do, but they don’t know what the steps are,” Adams said. “ … This is an easy way to make a difference.”

Friday’s replanting was supported by donations through KU Endowment and a successfully completed $5,000 LaunchKU crowdfunding campaign. Replant Mount Oread met its fundraising goal for the Campanile project within a week but is accepting donations for future projects through Tuesday.

To donate, visit launchku.org/project/7591.

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