Editorial: KU tree tally

Kansas University has lots of trees — but not nearly as many as it once did.

What happened to all those trees on Mount Oread?

Trees are an important part of the Kansas University landscape, so it came as something of a surprise that the campus is falling behind on maintaining its tree population.

To help remedy that situation, the university is planning a special tree-planting event on Friday and calling attention to a KU Endowment Association effort to raise funds to defray the costs of planting and maintaining trees on campus.

Even though it seems there are lots of trees on the KU campus, figures cited in the Journal-World last week indicate there are far fewer than there used to be. Storm damage, disease, construction and age have taken their toll on trees, and KU is having a hard time keeping up with the need to replace them. In 2013, KU planted 52 trees but had to remove 71 trees. The previous year, 42 trees were planted but 87 were lost. KU officials say that trend has been steady for a number of years.

As part of their effort to step up tree replacement, a group called Replant Mount Oread has organized Arbor Day tree-planting events for three years. The organization’s first fall tree planting event “Trick or Trees” is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday and will focus on the lawn between Marvin and Lindley halls. The group is seeking to restore some of the original landscaping to the area by planting additional Bartlett pear trees, dwarf mugo pines and flowers.

The Jayhawk Boulevard construction project that currently is underway also includes plans to restore the tree canopy on either side of the street. The trees that previously provided that canopy were mostly elms and fell victim to Dutch elm disease in the mid-1970s. It’s not an inexpensive proposition; officials estimate it will cost $1 million to plant about 200 trees along the boulevard.

KU is known for the beauty of its campus. Maintaining the trees and other plantings that are essential to that reputation is an ongoing challenge. It seems that many alumni with fond memories of Mount Oread would be eager to support efforts to preserve the campus’s natural beauty for future generations. Hopefully, recent publicity will inspire them to step up and help fill that need.