Trees by the Burnhams

A construction site fence is scheduled to be installed on Nov. 19. 

After hearing about the potential removal of a stand of trees by the Burnham Residence Halls for the South Neighborhood Housing project, some members of Western Michigan University’s Landscape Services department are hoping to prevent it by “speaking for the trees.”

“They (the trees) can’t talk but they sure do have an impact on our lives,” Campus Arborist Jesse Teunissen said.

Teunissen was first made aware of the plans to remove the trees after he was asked to itemize them and identify their value. He said there are 60 different specimen of trees and shrubs in the area behind the Burnhams, including some rare specimen.

"That’s when it dawned on me,” Teunissen said. “I’m going to give them their evaluation, but I’m going to try to save these trees. I don’t want them cut. They have the most value that they’re going to have in their lifetime right now because they’re mature.”

The tree removal will make room for new student housing and the equipment necessary to build it. A construction site fence is scheduled to be installed on Nov. 19, Teunissen said. They are hoping to get word out to the WMU community before then.

Students are hosting a meeting open to WMU student and staff to educate them on the trees and plan a course of action for preventing their removal. The meeting will be held on Nov. 7 at 12 p.m. in room D of the Swain Education Library on the second floor of Sangren Hall.

Teunissen said they are hoping to explain to attendees what the trees provide for them.

“There’s a long list of benefits that those trees provide and they should be aware of it,” Teunissen said.

Rob Wallace, Irrigation Lead at WMU Landscape Services, hopes to show people the trees up for removal at some point as a part of the preservation process.

“If we lose this stand of trees, people aren’t going to know what they lost if they haven’t seen it while they are still there,” Wallace said.

The trees in question are estimated to be roughly 70 to 80 years old depending on how old they were when the Burnhams were built in 1948. Some of the trees were relocated to the property at the time.

“(The trees) add a lot,” Wallace said. “They cut down on road noise, create a beautiful campus for the students — for everybody, for the staff. We definitely take pride in a lot of our work and we want to know that the work we do, the campus that we maintain, means something to the community and the students.”

Teunissen and Wallace are hoping to be a part of the construction planning process in the future.

“We’re not included in the planning phase," Teunissen said. "We’re here now after the fact which is not the time to include arborists or other professionals.” 

Wallace would like to see the building site moved closer to the original removal site of the Elmwood apartments as the soil is already disturbed there and it wouldn’t lead to further damage.

“(The) reasons for taking down trees are they die or they are severely infested with pests, severely diseased or they are at high risk of failing and causing damage to property or people,” Teunissen said. “The last reason is for construction. That’s the only one on this list that those trees meet. All those trees look fine to me from a risk perspective. They’re healthy, they’re at the pinnacle of their lifespan and now they want to cut them down.”


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