Trees cut down on Chatham’s Shadyside campus, students have mixed emotions

By Anniston Bieri

Many students have enjoyed a quiet moment by the Chatham University pond,
watching the fish, listening to the water, and hoping to befriend the ducks.

It’s nice to sit and relax beneath the large Norwegian Maple tree — until that tree was cut down Aug. 7.

A large branch fell from the tree by the pond about a year ago, said Kristen Spirl, grounds department manager and a Chatham graduate. By July, though, there was only one last branch full of leaves.

“It was deemed that two-thirds of the tree was dead, and it was time to take it down,” she said.

Once the tree came down, the trunk was discovered to be hollow, confirming the grounds department’s worries.

“Hollow means easy tipping during storms, and when you have something that is so well traversed as the pond, you don’t want to have a tree there that could kill somebody,” Spirl said.

As a school that takes pride in its sustainability efforts, Chatham has been recognized by several programs for its ecological achievements and goals. In 2012, Chatham became a certified Tree Campus and has upheld the program’s standards since then, providing a tree care plan and a dedicated annual maintenance fund. However, since the removal of the pond tree, some across campus are saddened by the decision.

“I don’t like to go near the site when it’s happening,” Spirl said. “[Cutting down a tree] is traumatizing to me, and I know it is for other people, too.”

There also are plans to take down a walnut tree by the Art & Design Center patio. In 2008, the tree was struck by lightning, leaving a large scar down its side that faces the West Woodland Road.

On July 5, the large branch above that scar fell, likely due to heavy rainfall. The branch locked the road and caused a small amount of property damage to a neighboring lot, but there were no injuries. The tree is structurally sound for now but will be removed sometime this semester.

A tree near the Art & Design Center was struck by lightning and will be removed later this semester.

“Basically, trees come down when it’s not safe. Not for any other little reason. It is to keep people safe,” Spirl said, “[and] of course, we’re going to replant.”

The dead tree that was cut down near the pond on Aug. 7

Two red maple trees will be planted by the pond. Both of these trees will be mature — meaning they will require more maintenance before they are accustomed to the area — but will immediately provide shade and nesting areas for the campus wildlife.

Since 2013, Chatham has planted 364 trees. This year, the grounds department has planted 19 mature trees and 66 saplings. Twenty of those trees were donated from Tree Pittsburgh. In the fall, 42 more trees will be planted at Chatham’s East Side campus, made
possible with a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

These tree-planting events offer opportunities for students to volunteer. For those who would like to get involved, more information will be available at a later date.