Eastern has an incredibly beautiful campus. Flowers are continually in bloom, big shady trees are everywhere, and the trash from events like tailgating never hangs around long. The grass is (almost) always green, even right now, when Eastern’s financial green is somewhat lacking.Our flowers and trees are maintained in part by a lesser-known area of Eastern’s budget: “arboreal maintenance.” In everyday speech that means, “tree money.”
According to facilities services, every year Eastern allocates $100,000 for the planting and upkeep of campus trees, shrubs and flowers.
At first glance, this number may seem ridiculously large, especially at a time when Eastern is facing the very real consequences of back-to-back state budget cuts.
In many flowerbeds around campus, facilities services plants annual flowers that bloom only once. These flowers are replaced every few months with new annuals, which also must be replaced eventually. Perennial flowers could, in theory, cut out these extra costs.
When the Progress first learned about the university’s seemingly wasteful flower spending, our initial opinion was that the budget should be cut. But first appearances can be misleading.
Over half the arboreal maintenance budget goes toward maintaining large trees on campus, according to facilities services.
A tree between Keen Johnson and the Crabbe library was recently removed because it was dying and posed a threat. “If it came down, it was going to cause a lot of property damage,” David Williams, the associate director of facilities services said.
Williams said the tree cost “a couple thousand” to remove.
Williams also said in recent years Eastern has planted around 300 trees on campus. Eastern spends $15,000 to $20,000 a year planting trees and shrubs.
Eastern is trying in many ways to reduce its carbon footprint, from its partnership with Siemens that’s saving millions in carbon emissions to its new ride-sharing program designed to reduce the number of cars commuting to campus.
A good diet consists of eating less and exercising more. Eastern has lots of programs design to “eat” less carbon, but not many of them focus on exercising more-planting more trees. The trees Eastern plants are an essential part of making sure the university does its part to curb global warming.
As for the flowers, Eastern spends $8,000 to $10,000 a year out of the arboreal maintenance budget on flower bulbs. Another $5,000 is spent on the flowers housed in Eastern’s greenhouses.
While perennials might be more cost-efficient, they would also have a detrimental effect on the appearance of Eastern’s campus. Williams said facilities services uses annual bulbs and replaces them two or three times a year so that the campus can be in bloom year-round.
Facilities services has conducted surveys of the Eastern community and discovered that the beauty of the campus is very important to faculty, staff, students and alumni.
And Williams said downgrading the flower budget has been proposed during previous budgetary crises. In those cases, Eastern determined cutting the arboreal maintenance budget was not an efficient area to cut because it didn’t have much effect, Williams said.
It may seem odd to defend extraneous spending on plants. But it’s not really all that extraneous. Right now, there’s no doubt that the campus is beautiful. Having that beauty around every day is good for people’s attitudes. If Eastern’s campus had a reputation for being ugly or falling into disrepair, we wouldn’t be nearly as happy coming here every day, and we wouldn’t be nearly as proud of the campus when others see it.
Not keeping the campus beautiful would strike a serious blow to the atmosphere at Eastern. And if Eastern is going to remain the kind of place worthy of defending from budget cuts, it needs to keep its atmosphere.