A Guide to Managing Trees on College and Corporate Campuses
A Guide to Managing Trees on College
and Corporate Campuses
E. Thomas Smiley, Ph. D., Plant Pathologist
Bruce R. Fraedrich, Ph. D., Plant Pathologist
There are two ways to run a campus tree · Inventory resources
management program. The simplest way, in · Develop a management plan
which most programs are run, is by crisis or · Implement the plan
reactive management. Deadwood is · Follow up with accurate records
removed when someone complains, trees are Goals and Objectives: Goals and objectives
planted when donations are received, and must be designed in clear, precise and
fallen trees are cleaned up after a storm. measurable terms. Goals vary among tree
managers, with most expressing the desire to
Crisis management works, it has for years, but have an aesthetically pleasing campus
is a cost effective way to manage? The landscape that poses no imminent safety
alternative is proactive management. This hazards to passer-bys.
entails defining program goals, determining
resources, developing a management plan
and implementing the plan.
Research has found that crisis
management accomplishes work on only
one third the number of trees serviced on
a proactive management program.
Crisis management is a simple process,
whose outcome is determined by external
factors. The remainder of this article will
describe proactive management for campus
trees, designed so you can obtain positive
There are five steps to developing a proactive
· Define program goals and objectives
Examples of written goals may be the C. Pest populations will be
following: monitored and treated as
Goal 1: For public safety, trees
with potentially hazardous Specific objectives should be defined for all of
conditions will receive remedial the generalized goals.
immediate treatments or be
removed. Resource Inventory: This is a listing of
resources available, such as people and
Goal 2: To ensure an equipment, as well as an inventory of your
aesthetically pleasing campus trees. There are several ways to accomplish
landscape, losses will be a tree inventory. It may be performed with in-
minimized with a plant health house staff, temporary summer employees, by
care program and suitable plant contractors or by a combination of the three.
replacements selected. Data accuracy, administrative problems and
costs vary among options.
Goals are defined in objectives. The objectives
of Goal 1 become:
A. All trees will be inspected for
defects and after major storms
B. Dead or potentially
hazardous trees will be
removed within one week of
C. Hanging or broken limbs
greater than two inches in
diameter will be removed within
two weeks of their discovery.
D. Trees will be pruned
“preventively” on a four-year The type of data collected for each tree
rotation to minimize deadwood depends on your program goals. Typical
and structural problems. options include:
E. Young trees will be pruned · Location
on two-year rotations for the
first ten years after planting to · Tree/Site Parameters – Species,
promote sound structure. size, condition and interfering
The objectives of Goal 2 become:
· Management Needs - Planting
A. Tree mortality will be less site classification, pruning
than 1% of the population. requirements, insects and
diseases, sidewalk damage and
B. High value trees will be nutritional requirements.
fertilized on a two-year cycle.
For an inventory to be worth the time and pedestrians or vehicles, trunk decay that has
expense of collecting the information, it must structurally weakened the tree, root rots that
be updated and used as a management tool. have decayed major support roots, V-crotches
The only way this can be practically conducted or split crotches, trees rubbing against
for populations of over 1,000 trees is through buildings and windows and large trees in open
the use of computers. Tree management areas that may attract lightning.
computer software is available for purchase or
lease through a number of firms and Hazardous tree work priorities also depend on
universities. You may be able to develop a the location of the tree. Maintenance can be
program in-house with the assistance of the delayed on trees in low traffic areas, away
college s computer department. It is best to from sidewalks or buildings. Trees next to
have software developed prior to the inventory buildings and walkways must receive top
to avoid collection of excess information. priority for maintenance.
The second major consideration is
Management Plan: A management plan can preservation or tree health. This includes
be developed from the information collected in routine pruning to maintain health and
the inventory and based on the stated goals structure, irrigating feature trees during
and objectives as listed in step one. It should droughts, fertilizing on a two to four year
be a plan of action, describing how your goals schedule, and maintaining insect and disease
will be achieved using resources that are pests below damaging levels. Integrated pest
available. It may also show that the stated management programs are recommended to
goals cannot be achieved with the resources prevent losses from pests while minimizing
on hand, which case alternative goals can be pesticide usage.
developed and a revised budget prepared.
The third consideration is aesthetics.
A proactive plan should project work for three Maintaining a desirable natural form of a plant,
to five years. Since many factors will change, pruning rather that shearing foundation
the plan will need to be periodically updated plantings and maintaining open vistas are
and projected to the future. Updating is some consideration for aesthetics. An
relatively easy if your department is aggressive pest management program, which
computerized. Computer summary reports goes beyond plant health management and
can be prepared showing how much tree work addresses cosmetic injury, is another
remains to be completed, how much work has consideration. Where budgets allow, planting
been completed, how much work each crew unusual and rare species creates a campus
typically performs and how many requests arboretum.
have been received.
The management plan should clearly define
work priorities as it is by following the priority
system that work can most efficiently be
accomplished. In general, there are three
broad classifications of tree work priorities,
Safety, Preservation and Aesthetics.
With a limited budget, money should be spent
first on trees with potentially hazardous
conditions. Obvious defects include dead
trees, broken and hanging limbs and
deadwood. More subtle hazards include lower
limbs blocking signs or interfering with
Implementing the Plan: What is the best · Pre-qualify contractors. Choose only
way for campuses to get tree work done? It established companies with a solid
usually involves a mixture of work done by in- reputation. Make sure the arborist is
house crews and contract crews. certified by the International Society of
In-house crews can address small tree
pruning, less intricate removals, and possibly · Ensure that the contractor carries
pest monitoring. If you are unsure of crew skill sufficient liability insurance by
level, large tree service companies, other requesting an insurance certificate.
private firms or university extension agents
can provide training. Quality tree service ·Ask for and check references,
companies can also do work on small trees especially of similar sized college or
and shrubs. commercial projects.
Planting can be done in-house during slow Record Keeping - Document all maintenance
times such as in the late fall, winter or early performed, including dates and
spring. This not only keeps crews busy but persons/company performing the
also gets planting done at the best time of the maintenance. Document all tree surveys and
year for the tree. inspections, even those in which no
problems/defects were encountered. Update
In most instances, contracting out tree inventories annually to reflect changes in
maintenance on large trees to tree service the tree population and maintenance
companies is most economical. Tree service performed. This will form the basis for next
companies have the necessary equipment year s management program.
and trained personnel to perform this work
efficiently. In order to ensure quality work at By assuming a proactive approach to tree
the best possible price, consider the following: care on campuses, work can be accomplished
more effectively to provide healthier, safer
· Write very “tight” (specific) bid trees at reasonable cost.
specifications, which detail the quality
of work desired. The National Arborist
Association (NAA) and American
National Standards Institute (ANSI)
publish standard specifications for all
phases of tree maintenance that is
essential for developing bid specs.