Twinkling blue and white lights decorate the sequoia giganteum tree outside of Edens Hall at Western Washington University. Slackliners utilize the trees on sunny days and the trees on Western's campus contribute to the oxygen humans breathe.
While some may take the trees for granted, October is the official month to appreciate those plants vital to Western’s way of life.
October is the month of metamorphosis for trees as the fall season sets in. Gov. Jay Inslee newly recognized October as Urban and Community Forestry month on Sept. 23.
This month supports planting trees, preserving trees and informing the public about how to prevent damage to trees, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Trees at Western
Western’s campus sustainability manager Seth Vidaña works with the university's gardeners to implement sustainable acts on campus where people and nature thrive, he said in an email.
“There is a relationship between the physical campus and the mind-set of its inhabitants,” Vidaña said.
“We make the campus and the campus makes us.”
Although Western’s trees are plentiful, they are still sensitive and face damage from human activities. It is important to recognize what causes damage to trees and prevent damage from occurring, according to the DNR. “Education does not happen in the classroom alone,” Vidaña said. “Campuses teach simply by the way they are designed and how they function. Higher education is expected to be on the forefront of the ‘right way’ to do things.”
With an abudance of trees, it is a complicated process to keep them maintained, said Western’s lead gardener Randy Godfrey. Godfrey and his team of gardeners maintain unkempt tree branches and blow and collect the piles of leaves covering brick walkways.
In October, the biggest tree-related issue gardeners face is picking up leaves, Godfrey said.
Gardeners take leaves back to the Physical Plant facility, where the leaves are dumped into a large bin and turned into compost during the winter. Last year, the leaves generated 62 cubic yards of compost, Godfrey said.
In general, trees grow tall and full and can thrive in a specific location for decades, said Gary Hodge, Western’s outdoor maintenance supervisor. However, the older these trees are, the more hazardous they become. Trees battle diseases that can take over the entire tree and rot its insides until it becomes hollow. British Columbian beetles are also a common threat to trees and contribute to tree rot, Hodge said.
Bellingham’s strong wind gusts that commonly billow up from Bellingham Bay can become hazardous
for the weaker trees on campus.
More than 10 years ago, a windstorm knocked down a poplar tree more than 100 feet tall on the side of Wilson Library minutes before classes started, Godfrey said.
“The timing was perfect because had it been a few minutes later, there would have been a lot of foot traffic,” Godfrey said.
Fairhaven College alumnus and co-editor of "Read the Dirt," Simon Davis-Cohen was an admirer of the trees on Western’s campus.
As a student, Davis-Cohen saw Western’s trees as an important aspect of Western’s campus.
“[They] make campus beautiful,” he said.
He spent much of his spare time exploring the Sehome Arboretum, admiring its array of trees and nature.
One of his fondest memories at Western was climbing the large cedar trees.
“It is always nice to have a natural buffer in the urban setting and trees offer that for Western,” he said.
For tree admirers and community members alike, Urban and Community Forestry month is the time to encourage those living in prosperous tree communities to become educated on native trees while learning how to protect these entities.
Quick facts about Western's trees
• The oldest trees are located in the core of campus by Red Square around Old Main, Wilson Library and Edens Hall.
• Of the trees on campus, some trees are mpre than 100 years old, according to the University Archives and Records Department.
• Western's online tree tour lists 85 different types of trees located around campus including maple, cedar, oak and douglas.