EcoVillage plans begin with tagging

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February 14, 2011

9:59 PM

Members of the Committee on Sustainability’s land use working group, armed with white tape and orange spray paint, took to the trees near the Daily Grind Jan. 31 to designate which trees to preserve and which to remove.

The marking process is part of the COS planning for its EcoVillage project, which proposes an environmentally-friendly renovation of the Lodges to create a sustainable student living and research community.

As part of the assessment process, the Land Use group met with a state forester in December to evaluate the safety of the site before beginning renovations, only to discover that most of the large loblolly pines in the area were old or diseased and needed to be removed.

“A good majority of them have completed 85 to 95 percent of their life cycle,” Sustainability Fellow Sarah Hanke said.

According to Hanke, the non-native pines were planted in the 1940s or 50s, chosen for their size and rapid growth rate.

“They’re basically genetically chosen to be super-trees,” Land Use group leader Jim Perry said.

The existing loblolly pines were introduced primarily due to their economic potential, Perry said.

“As a fast growing and highly marketable species with easily harvested and inexpensive seeds, many timbered hardwood sites were seeded or sprigged with loblolly pine after timbering,” Perry wrote in his report of the December visit. “Thus, genetically selected loblolly pines have become common throughout the mid-Atlantic region of the [United States] as an economic crop.”

However, these super trees, weakened by old age and the fungal red-heart disease, now pose a threat to the future EcoVillage buildings and the people who will beliving in them, Perry said.

“The bottom line is that those are probably not safe,” Perry said. “The forester actually called it a ‘catastrophe waiting to happen.’”

But the COS isn’t just removing the old trees — it’s also planting new ones.

“These trees are diseased. They’re at the end of their life. But we’re not going to just take them down, we’re going to replace them,” Perry said. “We’ll take them out, but we’re going to put something back.”

According to Hanke, the old, non-native trees will be replaced by native species including native hardwoods like oak and hickory.

The wood from the downed pines might find continued use in the EcoVillage.

“The EcoVillage committee is exploring the possibility of using wood from the pines that are removed to build furniture for the EcoVillage,” Hanke said.

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