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April 11, 2014
Northwest Missouri State University will celebrate its 20 years as the Missouri Arboretum with a celebration and ceremonial tree planting later this month.
The public is invited to gather with Northwest students, employees and special guests at 1:30 p.m. Monday, April 21, for a tree-planting ceremony outside the Forest Village Apartments, located on the north side of the University campus. Several local leaders and student organizations also are expected to participate.
The Missouri State Legislature designated the Northwest campus as the Missouri Arboretum in 1993. Today, the campus is home to more than 1,700 trees and more than 130 species cultivated from throughout the world. Three trails – the Gaunt Trail, Tower Trail and Chataqua Trail – also traverse the campus to help visitors learn about the trees and get an up-close view of them.
Northwest family members and friends all agree that the Northwest Missouri State University campus – the state’s arboretum – is a jewel and one of the most beautiful campuses in the country,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said. “Our heritage continues, and as the Missouri Arboretum enters its third decade, it remains a tremendous resource for enjoyment and solace for students, families, our communities and a whole host of visitors.”
The idea of an arboretum on the Northwest campus started to grow during the 1980s after Dr. Johanne Wynne Fairchild, then an agriculture and biology instructor, had begun tagging the campus’ trees with the help of horticulture students. Eventually, she completed a listing of all of the campus’ trees and published the first in a series of “Tree Walk” pamphlets that included Northwest’s tree history as well as a listing of all tree species on the campus in 1992.
Through Fairchild’s efforts, University administrators and Facility Services staff members worked to ensure legislation was created that designated the Northwest campus as the Missouri Arboretum. The legislation was sponsored by Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, who was then serving his first term as a state representative.
The campus has since gained several distinctions, including the Communitree Award in 2000 “for exemplary stewardship of community trees.”
Its mission, noted Travis Stokes, Northwest’s manager of landscape services and director of the Missouri Arboretum, is to collect trees, shrubs and other plants to display them across the naturally beautiful landscape for people to study and enjoy. Often, visitors to the campus get a sense of entering a residential neighborhood rather than an institutional setting.
“As you walk the campus, you will notice the pride we take in our trees, which are routinely pruned and shaped to not only create the beautiful landscape that the Northwest Missouri State community embraces, but a welcoming educational outdoor environment as well,” Stokes said.
The University’s legacy of caring for trees and developing its lush landscape dates back to nearly 50 years before the institution’s founding in 1905. About 85 acres of the 330-acre campus were originally part of a tree farm and nursery established by Thomas Gaunt in 1857. Northwest estimates 10 trees in the vicinity of the Gaunt home, which now serves as a residence for the University president and his family, were planted around the time Gaunt tended the land.
After the University took ownership of the Gaunt property, groundskeepers, led by J.R. Brink, planted fast-growing, short-lived trees with slow-growing, long-lived trees, which rapidly brought beauty and shade to the new campus. After the sturdy slow-growing trees became established, the fast-growing but weak trees were removed.
As the University grew, so did the trees and the campus community’s appreciation for them. President Uel Lamkin brought gingko trees back from China between 1921 and 1945, and they still stand today at the southwest side of the Administration Building. In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, graduating classes donated trees. Flowering crabapple trees planted behind Colden Hall were donated in memory of President Robert Foster’s mother.
Maintaining the campus as it appears today also has had its challenges. During the 1970s, Dutch elm disease wiped out all but one of the American elm trees planted during the University’s early years. As a result, groundskeepers began planting a wide variety of trees in hopes that a single disease would never be able to wreak so much havoc.
In December 2007, the Missouri Arboretum suffered a devastating blow when an ice storm destroyed or damaged more than 40 percent of the trees on the Northwest campus. In its aftermath, Northwest’s commemorative tree program helped spur a recovery effort, and Northwest students, employees, alumni and friends showed their generosity by purchasing 275 new trees for the campus within months after the storm.
More recently, an Aug. 18, 2011, “super storm” that brought winds in excess of 80 mph defoliated more than 80 percent of the Missouri Arboretum’s tree population, stripped bark, severed limbs and led to the removal of 24 trees. Drought conditions also have caused groundskeepers to alter their irrigation practices to ensure the trees’ longevity.
Looking to the future, Northwest is partnering with the city of Maryville to rejuvenate its main campus entrance and the Fourth Street corridor stretching to downtown Maryville. As part of the Fourth Street Improvement Project, which is expected to break ground this spring, the Missouri Arboretum will be extended to Fourth Street.
Northwest is employing GIS mapping tools to assist with the tracking of its tree population. The University also has introduced a new logo for the Missouri Arboretum and a mobile app is in the works.
“The future of the Missouri Arboretum is bright,” Stokes said. “We are very excited about the opportunities new technology provides for us as well as our partnership with the city of Maryville to expand and enhance the Arboretum.”
The commemorative tree program continues today and allows anyone to donate $300 for the purchase of one tree, its planting and a lifetime of maintenance. The donor’s name, or the name of a friend or loved one, also is included on a plaque next to the tree. To learn more about the Missouri Arboretum and the commemorative tree program, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/arboretum/.
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468