At UAA, New Trees Sprout Alongside New Buildings

Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities and Maintenance at UAA, Chris Turletes, helps load up wheelbarrows for volunteers to plant. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities and Maintenance at UAA, Chris Turletes, helps load up wheelbarrows for volunteers to plant. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.

More than a dozen people gathered at the Alaska Airlines Center on Friday with shovels, wheelbarrows and small potted trees in tow. All were on a mission and none were afraid to get their hands dirty. Their goal? To plant 300 trees to take the place of some that were cut down during the many construction projects on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

The University of Alaska Anchorage has just completed two major projects, the Alaska Airlines Center and the Engineering Building, and recently started another, a new parking garage.  thousands of trees were cleared to make room for these buildings. But the University has implemented a “no net tree loss” system so that for every tree lost, a new one is planted.
So on Friday, a group of students, faculty and staff at UAA spent the morning planting new seedlings.
Trees were planted to make up for the trees that were cleared for the construction of UAA's new Alaska Airlines Center. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.
Trees were planted to make up for the trees that were cleared for the construction of UAA’s new Alaska Airlines Center. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.

One of the leads for the event, Ryan Buchholdt, business manager for facilities and campus services, says the math for the program is pretty simple.

“We did a study several years back that there is about 445 trees per acre when we clear land for a construction project, and then that determines what our quote “tree debt” is. So our goal is to, not necessarily right away, but over the next few years to make sure that we replace all of those trees lost due to construction.”
In the summer alone the university has planted over 6,000 trees on University land in the Kenai Peninsula and Palmer. On the Anchorage campus, with winter fast approaching, there was little time to spare to plant the remainder of the small birch and pine trees.
Horticulturalist Kara Monroe used her expertise to help the cause. She was happy to see the turnout of volunteers.
“I was really surprised. We called on the community, mainly students to come in and help us out and there’s way more that I thought out here. So that’s really cool. We are going through these trees awfully fast.”
That was student horticulturalist Omar Vilafuerte, working to further his education and help the environment at the same time.
It didn’t take long for volunteers to get the hang of digging, unpotting, planting, covering and then repeating it for the next tree. But it was difficult work. Volunteer, Kelly Donnelly found it took a little extra elbow power at times to get the job done.
“There are more roots than you anticipate. The ground looks soft and you dig in and then you realize oh there’s a root there and you gotta find another place, or dig through it! It’s great!”
Once all 300 trees were planted the volunteers, eating pizza, got to sit back and admire the trees. Future students will likely appreciate them too.