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Hug a tree

Student Mitchell Chavannes, right, places a red maple into the ground near Hulley Tower on Arbor Day, while students (from left) Jessie Bosma, Alonnah Creswell and Bekah Burket, Vice President Bob Huth and Associate Professor Cindy Bennington prepare to fill in the dirt.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is now – Chinese Proverb.

It’s a tradition to plant a tree to celebrate Arbor Day. But Stetson University is a Tree Campus USA– known for its lovely, shaded campus. So Stetson students, faculty and staff planted nine or 10 trees for Arbor Day 2012!

On a sunny spring afternoon, the Stetson community gathered on the steps of the Carlton Union Building to reflect on the importance of trees and celebrate the university’s new designation as a 2011 Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The group then walked across CUB circle to watch the planting of a red maple near Hulley Tower. The students planting the trees continued on to Griffith Hall, where they planted two sweet gums, five or six live oaks and a beauty berry bush.

“Using four standards, the Tree Campus USA program furnishes a foundation for any campus to enhance its urban forest and make a connection with college students to help foster a new generation of tree stewards,” said Elizabeth Harkey, arborist for the City of Sanford.

A DeLand native, Harkey was one of the speakers for Stetson’s annual Arbor Day celebration. She recognized the university for its longtime commitment to the environment and trees, specifically, praising the work of the Environmental Responsibility Council and programs of the Gillespie Museum and the Rinker Environmental Learning Center.

Charlie Marcus, urban forestry coordinator for the Florida Forest Service, told the story of his first visit to Stetson – when he was a college student in the 1970s. He saw the tree-lined campus and wondered how students could focus on their schoolwork, he joked at the Arbor Day program.

“I take my hat off to you for becoming a Tree Campus USA,” Marcus said. “I also want to take my hat off to you for getting a degree in this beautiful environment.”

Vice President for Business and CFO Robert Huth went over the criteria for Stetson becoming a Tree Campus USA. This was the first year the university applied for the designation that began nationally in 2008. Stetson achieved the designation by meeting the required five core standards for sustainable campus forestry: a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects.

The City of DeLand has been a Tree City USA for 23 years, and Stetson has a long history of commitment to having a tree canopy. The university has had a native tree policy since 2002 and has about 65-percent canopy coverage. The university’s students and surrounding community have been involved in campus tree-planting efforts for more than 15 years. In 2011, about 600 trees were planted on campus.

Also in 2011, Political Science Professor Anne Hallum was awarded the Arbor Day Foundation’s highest national honor, the J. Sterling Morton Award. Hallum is the founder and director of the Alliance for International Reforestation, which helps the people of Guatemala have a better, more sustainable quality of life through tree-planting.

“This designation is a natural fit for us because we are already tree-friendly,” Huth said.

At the Arbor Day celebration, he thanked the leaders for this year’s Tree Campus USA initiative: Associate Professor of Biology Cindy Bennington, Gillespie Museum Director Karen Cole, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Al Allen and Manager for Grounds and Senior Assistant for Special Projects David Rigsby.