The Wooster campuses of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and the Agricultural Technical Institute have been designated as "Tree Campus USA" by the Arbor Day Foundation, which started this program in 2008 to honor colleges and universities committed to promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation.
The OARDC and ATI communities celebrated this recognition April 20 with an Arbor Day program, planting five oaks at various locations to symbolize the idea of an interconnected campus ecosystem and a combined effort toward beautification and education.
Both OARDC and ATI are part of Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
"This process started a couple of years ago, and the purpose was to solidify the idea of the Wooster campuses as a unified 'one campus,'" said Jim Chatfield, a Wooster-based horticulture specialist with OSU Extension, which is also part of CFAES. "The Tree Campus USA designation also highlights the partnerships we have with the community, including the city of Wooster and the College of Wooster."
To be recognized as a Tree Campus USA, an institution must meet five core forest management requirements: a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its tree program, an annual Arbor Day observance, and student service-learning projects -- which involve students from both ATI and the College of Wooster.
Wooster is now the second Ohio State campus to earn this recognition, following the Columbus campus in 2011. Ohio State is one of only six universities nationwide to have more than one of its campuses designated as Tree Campus USA.
This recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation is particularly satisfying in the aftermath of the September 2010 tornado that destroyed more than 1,500 trees on the OARDC campus, says Ken Cochran, curator of Secrest Arboretum, which is part of the campus and sustained most of the tree damage. Thanks to campus staff, volunteers, donors and industry contributions, some 1,600 trees have been planted so far as part of restoration efforts.
"Our long-standing emphasis on trees as an integral part of the campus environment is consistent with the Tree Campus USA designation," says Steve Slack, director of OARDC. "Additionally, the aggressive replanting work that took place following the tornado provides extra meaning and affirmation to this effort."
According to Chatfield, the work involved in achieving this designation has helped the Wooster campuses in many ways. "We have been able to create a comprehensive tree inventory and a database with information about all the trees on campus, which is now accessible to the grounds crew and researchers and will ultimately be made available to the public," he says.
For ATI interim director Jim Kinder, being a Tree Campus USA is in perfect alignment with his institution's educational mission.
"At Ohio State ATI, trees don't just matter. Trees teach," Kinder says. "They play a critical role in expanding the knowledge and shaping the values of the future tree stewards and green industry professionals who pursue an associate degree with us."