by Marla Gagne ’18
Returning from spring break, students walking down Huxley Avenue found themselves blinded by sunlight and staring into an empty space, while Mal Brown students discovered they could see Suites from their windows for the first time. Something seemingly changed over break, but what was it?
A row of trees previously lined the side of Guzman Hall facing Huxley Avenue, but were cut down over break. This was one of a number of tree trimmings or cuts that have taken place over the past school year, the most famous and controversial being the removal of the large red oak tree on the Smith Quad.
So, what is happening to all of the Providence College trees?
John Sweeney, senior vice president of finance and business, said the trees lining the side of Guzman were planted “too close together and were unhealthy.” Instead of being the recommended 12 to 15 feet apart, the trees remained six feet away from one another.
Sweeney said leaving the trees alone would have led to issues with root systems, and the trees would not have been able to reach their full potential and beauty, blocking one another from sunlight and full growth. But the trees will not be gone for too long—plans are in place to replenish the same area with new trees over the summer.
As PC continues to construct new buildings and change the campus, some students, faculty, and staff are concerned with how the natural landscape will suffer. When asked what he would say to anyone concerned about green space being eliminated on campus, Sweeney said, “We’ve [PC] added square footage of green space” and are “very concerned about increasing green space, being smart with parking, and appropriately planting species native to the area.”
He first highlighted that the former Davis parking lot has now been transformed to green grass and some plants, while Ruane Center for the Humanities and Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium were built on existing parking lots. The College did lose some grass on the new turf softball field and Glay Parking Lot.
Some students like Victoria Palmer ’17 are disappointed by the College’s continued removal of trees. ”When the Smith tree was determined to be cut down, I was really upset because I would do my homework under that tree and it was a place here I could go and just relax,” said Palmer.
After seeing the cleared space beside Guzman, she felt very upset that trees that have probably been there for many years were being once again removed.
Sweeney admits that he has received a lot of criticism about the removal of trees, but, like many of his critics, believes in the value of the campus’ landscape.
The trees, grass, and plants make PC a “park-like atmosphere in an urban setting,” and he sees that,“people really value that about the campus; it makes it beautiful and special.”
In April 2015, PC hired Bartlett Tree Experts to take an inventory of the College’s estimated 2,000 trees. All the trees were inspected, tagged, and positioned in a GPS, allowing the College to know what changes were needed to be made and how best to identify and replace the necessary trees.
Although he regrets having to cut down some trees, Sweeney said that the administration has a responsibility to the PC community to keep them safe and not ignore potential threats, even if they are not definite.
In April, students can expect to see a new red oak tree being planted on the Smith Quad. As mentioned, trees along Guzman will also be replanted in the summer as part of the new Huxley transformation. Features of the new transformation will include replacing Huxley with pedestrian walkways surrounded by plant life, trees, grass, and new benches.
Across from Guzman and Accino Hall will reside the new overlook, a five to eight-foot platform that will give a great view of the city landscape. Former Guzman Hill will also be less of a sharp incline, displaying a new staircase and a handicap path to get from upper to lower campus. Sweeney hopes these new additions to the landscape will satisfy students worried about losing their land. “We don’t want to take away green space,” said Sweeney.
Hannah Albright ’18 said she greatly values trees and green space as “very important for a beautiful campus” and, despite missing the removed trees, understands “that the new campus plan includes a good amount of green place, trees, and outdoor seating.”
Palmer admits the change can happen for the good, but must be done in the right way.
“I feel like we’re seeing the beginning stages of what they’re trying to make a green campus and at this moment it’s a little disappointing,” said Palmer. “When everything is complete, and if done in an environmentally friendly way without cutting down healthy trees, then I’d be okay with it.”