Hoover Hall construction will destroy some of DePauw's oldest trees


When construction begins on Hoover Hall this August, the landscape east and north of the Hub will change in more ways than just adding a construction site or a new building.
The mature hardwood trees east and north of the Hub will almost certainly be cut down to make way for Hoover Hall, according to Associate Professor of Biology Dana Dudle.
"I understand the need to make suitable land for construction," sophomore Omar Abdel-Rahim said. "I also understand the importance of building new structures to accommodate new classes in the ever-changing college atmosphere. But it shouldn't be at the price of what few trees we have on this campus."
As an environmentally conscious campus, DePauw University has an obligation to certain principles, junior Kat Raymond-Judy said.
"DePauw has made enough of a point of making itself seem environmentally friendly," Raymond-Judy said. "People make a big deal about the nature park and the president has had trees planted. I feel that if we're going to be consistent with our values, we need to find a way to keep these trees. They aren't little twenty-year-old trees; they're massive trees that have been on campus for a very long time."
Some members of the DePauw community are thinking of ways to honor and remember the trees, as this will likely be their last year on campus.
"The trees... have lived here on campus longer than any of us," Dudle said in an email sent to friends and faculty early last week. "They are characters in our lives-perhaps not stars, but certainly bit players."
There should be a ceremony to commemorate them, Dudle suggested.
Already Dudle has seen a flurry of responses and support for her ceremony idea as people passed along the email. Carol Steele, director of the Office for Sustainability, is working to organize an event around Arbor Day, April 25.
"The idea... is to get the writers/artists of various sorts together for an Arbor Day event that would honor the trees-especially the trees in the area where we will be building the new dining hall," Steele said. "Some of those... will surely be cut down to make way for the dining hall-and for the planting of new trees."
With the trees' fate almost a foregone conclusion, the nature of the Arbor Day ceremony will be more of a dedicatory one.
"It's not a protest," Dudle said. "It's resigned acknowledgement."
People have talked about possibly keeping the stumps or even building around the trees. However, these ideas may not be feasible, she added.
The next step is finding out which specific trees will be affected and the planning will continue from there.
Another possible way of honoring the trees would be incorporating the wood into the building, Coordinator of Convocations Keith Nightenhelser said.
"My idea, in line with LEED-certified buildings like the Prindle building that used on-site material to a large extent to lower its carbon footprint," Nightenhelser said, "was to have the trees at least evaluated for logging as a source of hardwood lumber that could be made into furniture or wooden surfaces within the new building or elsewhere on campus."
Another option for the trees' future is examining the rings of the trees to determine age and learn about climate where the trees grew, Nightenhelser added.
Dudle, who has walked past the trees several times a day for fifteen years, spoke of them being characters in the lives of students and faculty at DePauw.
"Trees change," Dudle said. "They look different every day [and every season, now] with snow and ice on them. They have a different effect on mood when it's windy than when it's extremely hot and sunny. They're there. They watch you and they witness everything you do."