Losing limbs and (hopefully) sparing lives

by Michelle Scott
Scarlet Staff

This year’s Halloween weekend was a spooky sight, indeed. Walking, especially on sidewalks, was a dangerous endeavor. When lights were disrupted, our only source of trick-or-treating illumination was provided by the gloomy glow of the snow.

Broken limbs on the corner of Downing and Woodland. Photo by Ashley Klann.

Pedestrians were scared off the streets, leaving nothing but the the silhouettes of downed trees full of leaves. Worcester became a graveyard of trees to which nature didn’t allot enough time to work their deciduous magic.

But, with the hard work of Physical Plant and a DIY student group, you’d be hard-pressed to find even a gravestone today. What has happened with the gruesome and woody remains of All Hallow’s Eve?

Physical Plant has had workers on the ground since the storm. Those first few days, in the words of Mike Dawley, Director of Physical Plant, were about “making safe.” That weekend was spent clearing the roads, making paths, and getting rid of the especially offensive branches that threatened further damage. That much was clear, even in the first few hours of the storm.

From the noise on campus, it is hard not to know the trees are being fed into shredders and turned into chips. What you might not know is an arborist was brought on the scene as soon as possible, a real professional to assess the leafy damage done. It is unclear as of now how many trees are going to realize their end because of the storm (only time will tell for many), but a handful had to be amputated immediately, either from their roots or trunks. But where are the tiny chunks that became of them?

The view from Red Square towards Maywood Street. Photo by Ashley Klann.

It turns out that most of our leaves and environmental rubbish are carted off to Clark’s arboretum and tossed in a compost heap. Since none of the trees can leave Worcester, the arboretum compost pile is exactly where our fallen foliage has gone. Unfortunately, the arboretum saw its own amount of damage from the storm.

There, trees that have seen 200 years of life met their end. But, all is not as sad as it appears, for many non-native and invasive trees were taken in the blizzard as well.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, our campus saw a special spectacle in the mess of branches: a group of students lead by Elliot Altbaum (’14), worked with the grounds people to gather some broken bits of trees and speed up the cleaning process. They labored with so much enthusiasm that the workers were able to focus their attention on the soccer field where our team was hoping to practice. With around 10 students carting these trees around it should have taken hours, but this crack team was so productive they cut their time down considerably. And all from a volunteer team gathered on the spot.

While the campus is almost spotless now, the whole process will be a considerable one. Throughout the seasons, we will find out which trees will make it and which will not. Many were in a process of hibernation in which their sap leaves their branches and runs down to the roots, rendering them brittle and ill-prepared to tend to their gashes. Without a bandage to protect their wounds, only time will tell how many this Halloween killed and how many will need replacing in the spring.

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