The 55 new trees that will line the restored part of Middle Path from Brooklyn Street north to Bexley Hall will arrive in the spring.
Forty-seven distressed trees were taken down this week as part of the Middle Path restoration plan that will bring stabilized gravel to Kenyon’s iconic central artery. The Norway maples came down in response to a 2011 assessment survey by arborists at Davey Tree that showed them to be unhealthy. “The ones that were there had real trouble growing because of road salt and soil conditions,” said Ed Neal, sustainability director. “They just weren’t the right ones to be planted there.”
In the spring, the felled trees will be replaced by 55 sugar maples and a variety of oak trees including red oak and bur oak. According to Steve Arnett, director of campus planning and construction, spring is the best time to plant these species in order for them to thrive. The new trees will be roughly 12-to-15 feet tall with trunks of about 3 inches in diameter when planted and are expected to reach as high as 50 feet over the years.
The cutting of the trees coincides with the beginning of the Middle Path restoration project. The next phase is to improve drainage along that section of the path, which will make a healthier environment for the new trees. Changing the elevation of Middle Path necessitated taking all of the distressed trees out at once, Arnett said.
Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman acknowledges that the number of trees – 1 percent of the campus tree population on campus – and their proximity to one another makes the area where they were cut look barren. But he pointed out that trees along other parts of Middle Path will not be clear cut because most are healthy. “This is the only section where it’s going to look like clear cutting,” he said.
While it will take time for the new trees to grow, Arnett said, “In the end it will be worth it. You’ll get Middle Path back. You’ll get trees back.”
Kenyon has thousands of trees on its campus, and the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Kenyon as a Tree Campus USA. The honor is achieved by meeting foundation standards for sustainable campus forestry, including a tree-advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated spending on the tree program, sponsorship of student service-learning projects, and observance of Arbor Day. “We really do see the trees as a valuable asset to the College,” Neal said.