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A growing university

Student groups plant trees for Earth Week

With the support of Facilities Management, dedicated students on campus met Friday to plant and maintain trees around the Commons Garage and the nearby stream. This initiative is part of UMBCs dedication to sustainability and reflects its “Tree Campus USA” status.

“Tease it,” says Donna Anderson, UMBCs manager of landscape and grounds. She is wearing a green Facilities Management windbreaker. “Tease the roots — don’t pat it. Tease them with your fingers. Open it up. Tease, tease it, there you go.” A group of five students are huddled around a thin sapling, patting tentatively at the dense root ball just freed from a black plastic pot.

Along with a few others, these students have gathered behind the Commons Garage on a warm Friday afternoon. A table is set up with donuts and a vegetable plate, while piles of gloves and shovels are nearby. Parked on the grass is a yellow backhoe. No one knows if it has anything to do with this service project, which is more of a hand-trowel operation.

These students have assembled under Anderson’s supervision as part of this year’s Earth Week. Along with planting six new trees, students are cleaning up the area, weeding and mulching around older plantings.

“This is the perfect time to plant trees and clean up trees — weed trees,” said Anderson. “This site was chosen because three years ago we’d had a huge tree planting project that was in partnership with a stream bank restoration project and the trees needed to be maintained.”

The trees were planted along a grassy slope and streambed located between Park Road and the Joseph Beuys Tree Garden, which has been designated a No-Mow area.

“One of the purposes of the no-mow area is to reduce our energy usage,” said Anderson, “but also letting the grass and things grow up between the trees helps to buffer the stream.”

The service project, though supported by Facilities Management, was actually initiated by students. “SGA reached out to me and wanted to do a tree planting, and we do something with trees every year because we are a Tree Campus USA,” Anderson said, “I told them to go ahead and do it, and I’ll provide the materials.”

Those materials included the six saplings, tools and gloves. This year’s project, though small in scale, spawns from a tradition of eco-friendly projects on campus. According to Anderson, over 400 trees were planted along the same stream bank three years ago. “Over 50 people came out that day to help plant,” said Anderson.

Turnout this year was nowhere near as large, but it was a sufficient size to get the job done. Many of the students who came to plant were encouraged by first year human-centered computing masters student Marilyn Iriarte.

“We are part of the English Language Institute,” Iriarte said, “but we just saw the event online and we just wanted to join it, since it’s the Earth Week … most of the people followed me! I’m just really good at convincing people, I guess.”

Thanks to Iriarte and the other groups that recruited workers, as well as Anderson’s support, the trees are safely planted. They will continue to improve the stream, as well as the aesthetic quality of campus. UMBC may be a growing university, but its students and faculty have shown a dedication to staying down to earth.