Western students organize to oppose tree removal for new residence hall

Students organized a meeting that was attended by some faculty and staff, all concerned about the possible tree removal. (WWMT, Will Haenni)

Construction plans for the new south neighborhood residence hall have some students at Western Michigan University concerned, because the project would involve the removal of several trees.

Students met Wednesday to discuss future steps in trying to convince university planners to rethink construction plans just east of Burnham Hall.

University leaders said they have a strong commitment to being a green campus and they are always mindful when removing trees.

As a part of their commitment to being a green campus, the university has pledged to plant two trees for any one tree torn down.

University Arborist Jesse Tuenissen said the immediate ecological impact is much more significant. "They say two to one, you know, plant two small for one big tree. You'd have to plant 20 to 30 small trees to make up the ecological benefit of those big ones."

Some of the trees evaluated Tuenissen estimated to be 70- to 80-years-old. The university hasn’t identified which trees will be taken down, but their intent is to have the least impact on the number of trees removed.

Dr. Diane Anderson, Vice President of Student Affairs, said this long-term revitalization of the south neighborhood is to create an inviting and energetic part of campus that's visually appealing from Stadium Drive.

"This is all about transforming the student experience on campus—making sure the student center and residential neighborhoods are set up to offer our students a truly transformational environment," Anderson said in an online release.

Paula Davis, a spokesperson for the university, said the demolition of the Elmwood Apartments at the end of May combined with the planned tear down of McCracken Hall will open land for the future construction.

She said, "Buildings planned will be high-rise style so they won’t take up as much land area. In the end, there will be more green space ultimately."

They hope to have the new residence hall move in ready by fall of 2020.

Student activists hope to begin a dialogue in the coming weeks, hopefully to persuade university leaders to re-draw plans and save the trees.

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