NKU’s own forest: the beautification project


Photo by Olivia Adkins

Trees on campus. They’re meant to ‘soften the look’ of NKU.

They aren’t Christmas trees, but there are new trees on campus that will be welcoming the holiday season.

After the removal of the previous ash trees due to the destructive Emerald Ash Borer which is a small green beetle, new trees have been added to the campus. The Borer infiltrates the trees and cuts off the nutrients to the tree causing it to die in the next year or so.  

“It just came to Kentucky in the past few years,” Superintendent of Grounds/Horticulture/Transportation, Bill Moulton said. “It’s trickling south from Michigan. They say that the main way it gets transported is people cutting the ash trees down and selling firewood.”

“They’re ruining baseball,” senior electronic media broadcasting major Clay Mahagan said.

According to Mahagan, the wood from Ash trees is used for baseball bats. Because of the trees dying by the Borer, the wood won’t be able to be used.

The trees that are replacing the Ash trees are a native tree called the Kentucky Coffee tree, Gymnocladus dioicus.

“It’s a special variety called espresso,” Moulton said.

Facilities management pulled out and replaced 35 trees which were Elm or the Kentucky Coffee Tree. The cost of the replanting comes from facilities management’s labor costs that are budgeted. A total of $3,579 was used in NKU labor costs and $15,000 in contractor labor.

The main campus isn’t the only place that has new trees and plants. Callahan is also gaining three new types of maple shrubs and other diverse maple collections.

“We can’t ensure that something bad won’t happen to the trees because that’s Mother Nature,” Moulton said. “But what we can do is provide the best professional practice as possible to ensure good plant health and growth. We scrutinize the material greatly before we purchase it.”

According to Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management Larry Blake, the trees are, “trying to soften the look of campus.” Blake specifically requested the Kentucky Coffee tree.

The idea is to make campus appear more inviting and allow students a greener area with shade. Blake mentioned that he wants students to come back and find a memorable place on campus.

“Every tree we plant has a positive impact on the environment,” Blake said.

Aside from the new trees planted, other areas have been constructed to be more green. The Fine Arts building features a growth of ivy stretching up the sides of the buildings and the new amphitheater by the Corbett.

“We wanted to get rid of the steps and in as much green as possible,” Blake said in regards to the new amphitheater. Blake went on to say that the handicap ramp that was originally there needed to be removed.

“People didn’t feel safe,” Blake said.

Because of the high walls, it was hard to see if anyone was around the corner. With the many maze like turns, wheelchairs would build up speed only to have to slow down to make the sharp turns.

“Through genetics and plant cultivation… the professionals in the industry are trying to give us the best material possible and still give us the beauty and beauty characteristics that we’re looking,” Moulton said.