City of East Lansing wants to plant more trees on campus

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Trees line the sidewalk on Shaw Lane. The road is one campus entrance that could gain more trees over the next year.

The City of East Lansing is working with Michigan State University to increase the number  of trees on and near campus.

Jessica Crawford, a member of East Lansing’s Commission on the Environment, said the plantings will help increase the well-being of students and residents and beautify campus entries.

“There’s a lot of research behind urban forestry being not only something to help improve mental health of the residents, but also the physical health as well, in order to help reduce any heat deserts,” she said.

The city will collaborate with MSU’s Landscape Services department to accomplish this.

“When there’s opportunities to partner with Michigan State, the city tries to collaborate the best they can just because there’s a lot of student power, there’s a lot of brain power, and there’s a lot of connections between the city and the campus,” Crawford said.

Cliff Walls, environmental specialist for the City of East Lansing, is helping this collaboration. 

As the project will focus on entrance routes to campus, the partnership is necessary. Walls said there are roads and medians that are within MSU’s campus, but still city-owned – such as the southwest entrance to campus on South Harrison Road.

“There’s a lot of areas, that are our medians, and our sidewalks, but it’s MSU,” he said. New plantings in this area will require work from both City and campus officials.

Matthew Bailey is landscape services manager at MSU’s department of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities. He’ll be working to increase the tree canopy on campus this year. The partnership will help the project get trees in the right places, he said.

“We want to put the trees where they need to be, not where our property lines start.”

Matthew Bailey

Bailey said his department typically plants around 300 trees a year. He’s looking to double this number and plant 250 to 300 trees per season – there are two tree-planting seasons per year.

For Bailey and his department, the motivation for planting more trees is to mitigate the effects of climate change. Trees draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas produced by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and gas.

Bailey and Crawford both said the first step is to inventory the tree cover on campus to identify planting goals.

Commission Chair Tom Alwin said, “The Commission doesn’t typically take on trees,”

Alwin said the commission usually works with wetlands in the city, but will occasionally accept projects related to environmental issues in East Lansing. The tree planting initiative is one such project.

Walls said the city is applying for grants to help fund more plantings, including one from the Department of Natural Resource’s Urban and Community Forestry program. Increased plantings on the city’s end will likely take longer than MSU’s.

“The hope is to make a more scenic entry to campus,” He said.