April 21, 2014 | Matt Kucinski

Students head to class through the heart of campus

Calvin College has been named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.

A deeply-held commitment

Calvin is one of just three institutions in the state of Michigan to earn this distinction (Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan are the other two). To be recognized as a tree campus, the college had to meet Tree Campus USA's five standards for sustainable campus forestry. They include maintaining a tree advisory committee, having a campus tree-care plan, dedicating annual expenditures toward trees, observing Arbor Day and holding service-learning projects related to trees for students.

“The Tree Campus USA award continues to highlight Calvin’s commitment to an attractive, functional and sustainable campus,” said Bob Speelman, who is the supervisor of the college’s landscape operations and a certified arborist. “It shows that we believe that trees have many more benefits than just aesthetics, and that caring for old, weathered, character trees is just as important as the fun in planting new ones for the next generation.”

An ongoing project

One of the ways in which the college has cared for its trees in recent years is through creating a tree map, a detailed digital inventory of all 3,500-plus trees on the college’s main campus. See http://gis.calvin.edu/trees/

This summer, students, under the direction of biology professor Randy Van Dragt, will be working to extend that inventory to include trees in the college’s Ecosystem Preserve east of the East Beltline.

Geology, geography and environmental studies professor Jason VanHorn and some of his students have been involved with the tree-mapping project the past few years. He says there’s great value in caring for the Creation.

“We’re not simply learning about trees, we’re learning more about how to be good stewards of the trees. It gives me great satisfaction to be involved in outdoor work and to feel connected to the land,” said VanHorn. “Trees to me are majestic. They are a metaphor for how awesome God is.”

The Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit conservation and education organization of one million members, and Toyota have helped campuses throughout the country plant hundreds of thousands of trees. 

Read the feature story on Calvin's 2013 Tree Campus USA honor.

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