Utah State University is planting new trees along its Quad in preparation for the deaths of the 80-year-old behemoths that currently line the grassy area at the heart of campus.
A plan approved by administrators Wednesday calls for planting dozens of hardy Bloodgood London plane trees over the next decade, then gradually taking out the existing varieties, which are mainly Norway maples.
Maple species typically live 60 to 80 years, meaning most of those now gracing the Quad will have died by 2020.
"The question is, how do we plant new trees before we take the others down?" said a member of USU's Arboretum Committee who wished to be anonymous because of potential controversy about the changes.
The university did issue a news release about the situation Thursday afternoon noting the adoption of a "USU Quad Master Plan." Associate Vice President for Facilities Darrell E. Hart could not be reached for further comment.
USU has already begun the makeover, recently removing seven trees near the Ray B. West and Family Life buildings on the south side of the Quad. Four had started to die from disease, while the other three had some health issues and were taken out so London planes could be planted across the whole area, maintaining a uniform look, the Arboretum Committee member said.
Under the plan's terms, landscapers will place saplings on one side of the Quad each year, moving next to the east end where the new agriculture building is being built. No chopping will be done there because the trees aren't suffering from illness.
"We won't put many others (London planes) on campus, so the Quad will be a distinct space," the source said, noting the species is disease-resistant and does well in Utah's climate, typically growing to about 70 feet.
The Bloodgood is a hybrid of the American sycamore and Oriental plane tree and is mentioned on several botanical websites as one of the few tree species that survives in all 50 states. It bears fuzzy fruitballs in pairs from a common stalk. In the fall, the plane tree's leaves will turn yellow.
In the end, only one of the existing trees will be left standing: a large Norway maple near the Animal Science Building that earned a state champion award.
The press release released Thursday said the new trees will be planted in uniform rows 8 to 12 feet from the sidewalks. The existing trees will gradually be pruned to accommodate sunlight for healthy growth of the new trees, the university says.
Creating a consistent landscape was a central goal for the Arboretum Committee, which debated the Quad's future for a year and presented its conclusions to top administrators Wednesday, getting their support.
The 11 faculty and staff members on the committee took on the issue after the sick trees were noticed, working with consultant G. Brown Design Inc. of Salt Lake City. Students also gave input.
"This was a very inclusive process," the committee member said. "We are very pleased with how it went."
To view the complete Quad Tree Replacement Master Plan, go to www.usu.edu/facilities/planning