Sacramento State awarded with Tree Campus USA designation

Kathleen Pizzo

Channeling the change of seasons throughout the year with alluring alterations of color, Sacramento State has been recognized through its wealth of varying trees by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The award was given to seven California State Universities this year, and was achieved by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five requirements that includes a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects.

Robert Anchor, manager of Sac State’s grounds and landscape, said the trees are a large priority for the university and so meeting the requirements was within capability.

“When you think of Sac State you think of the trees quite a bit,” Anchor said. “The trees are just a major part of what makes this campus look the way it does. It’s kind of a heritage type thing. It does help keep the environment cooler which helps save energy so it’s really a win-win as far as sustainability.”

From oak to redwood trees, Sac State hovers around a little more than 3,000 in trees with more added on each year. Because of the large number, the trees have commonly captured the attention of visitors, future students and professionals.

“It definitely adds on to the character of Sac State,” said communications studies major Priscilla Silva. “I know when future students and other people come here they take in consideration the presence and environment of the campus and the trees add on to that.”

Anchor said since the establishment of the university in the 1940s when a majority of the trees were planted, nearly 500 more have been added.

“As certain buildings came on board and growth happened on campus, more and more trees were planted,” Anchor said. “Since I got here 10 years ago, I’d say a couple hundred alone have been placed in various areas throughout the campus.”

Sac State has over 300 different species of trees on campus, and a majority of them are redwoods that match the “sandy loam soil” by being close to the river, Anchor said.

Along with the growth-advantageous environment the trees are set on, maintenance, annual expenditures and sponsorship of student service-learning projects are also criteria established by the Arbor Day Foundation.

“The foundation suggest based on acreage, and by a campus of our size they would love to have a $50,000 budget for maintaining trees,” Anchor said. “We were pretty close to that last year. We spent about $39,000.”

Anchor said the money that was spent last year was spent on the general upkeep of the trees as well as on a tree service, which has the training and equipment necessary to come to the campus, do trimming and take care of branches that are in danger of breaking and falling over walkways.

Hiring the service to work on weekends and holidays to avoid interference with campus life is ideal, but occasionally the Sac State grounds crew will take care of issues that must be done right away, Anchor said.

Along with the daily maintenance of the trees the campus partakes in an Arbor Day observance on the last Friday of every April.

As the director of the University Arboretum, Mike Baad oversees the three-acre botanical garden devoted to trees and annually celebrates Arbor Day by adding a tree to the observatory,

Baad said the trees, some from South America, included in the arboretum are mostly the types able to survive in a climate similar to Sacramento’s.

“We have over 1,400 different trees of varying concentrations and I think many students have yet to visit,” Baad said,

Anchor said along with adding a tree to the arboretum, a tree will also be planted on campus.

“Maybe we’ll have a student group get together and donate the time to help dig the hole and put the tree in place which we did last year,” Anchor said. “We had a planting program and we planted 12 down in the west perimeter. We had a fraternity group get together for that.”

Though the trees are a main priority for the university, endangerments toward their upkeeping do exist.

Sac State, having avoided threats like the prevalent diseases affecting many Northern California elms, has been fortunate thus far, but Anchor said if the drought plaguing all aspects of natural life on the West Coast continues, he predicts a negative impact for the trees.

Sacramento’s water limitations allows the university approximately two days of water supply dedicated to the trees, which is hardly enough considering the copious amount on campus.

“These rains we’ve had recently helped a lot, (but) not as much as I wish it could have been,” Anchor said. “So far, no it hasn’t affected the trees yet. But we’ll watch very closely and takes steps as necessary.”