The Arbor Day Foundation recently named the University of Mississippi a “Tree Campus USA,” thanks largely to the work of Landscape Services. The designation recognizes UM for meeting high standards of protecting trees and educating community members.
“Anytime you get anything like this it’s a recognition of the work that’s already being done,” said Jeff McManus, director of Landscape Services. “A lot of campuses aren’t fortunate enough to have even the awareness we do; it really helps people become sensitive to the effect trees have on any culture.”
McManus and UM Superintendent of Landscape Services Denise Hill have been working to apply for the designation for the past year. To earn Tree Campus USA status, the university had to meet five standards including gathering a campus tree advisory committee, developing a campus tree care plan, establishing a campus tree program with dedicated annual expenditures, publicly observing Arbor Day and offering a tree-related service learning project.
At this point, the campus has met these standards and beyond. According to Hill, all of these criteria were ways that Landscape Services could protect the campus trees. For Hill, the presence of trees defines a campus.
“It’s amazing to go to a campus of a university and see beautiful architecture and beautiful structures, but when they’re devoid of trees, you really don’t notice the architectural aspects of the campus grounds as much,” Hill said. “We’re blessed with having a naturally beautiful campus and we like to keep it that way.”
Looking beyond the physical, McManus believes that trees are crucial indicators of campus life.
“When you see a healthy, vigorous tree growing, you perceive that it’s a healthy campus, that our community is healthy,” McManus said. “And just the opposite is true. When you see a tree that’s dying or dead you perceive just the opposite.”
Now that the university is a Tree Campus USA, Hill and McManus look forward to educational opportunities as awareness grows.
“Just yesterday we had a group that came to us and wanted to do a service project, and through that project they’re learning and we’re out there with them teaching,” Hill said.
Moving forward, Landscape Services continues to protect the campus tree scene in the face of increased construction and a growing community. The department uses a simple formula for replanting trees after construction and restricts other damage through practices like fencing off trees and prohibiting the use of hammocks on campus trees.
To learn more about trees on the UM campus, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/landscape/.