The view outside many Castleton residential halls looks drastically different than it did in mid-December. Where there used to be tall trees, there are now freshly cut stumps and tree roots torn from the ground.
A tree to the left of Huden Dining Hall looks like it was struck by lightning with the way the stump peels away in all directions. The maple tree out in front of Huden might have been the biggest tree on campus, and certainly was the most notable, providing a shaded area for students in the summer and a breathtaking view in the winter.
But now, it’s been chopped down, and what remains is an empty space.
Students gathered and watched as the tree was cut down last week, all left wondering why it was happening.
“Kinda wish the trees were still here. Kinda sucks,” said junior Josh Kelley.
Ewan McRae, a sophomore agreed.
“It sucks. I like the trees. Everything around us is forest, why not keep a couple trees around us?” McRae said.
Junior Mia Manheimer was concerned about the wider implications of cutting down so many of the trees on campus.
“I feel like it is exacerbating global warming,” Manheimer said. “And it just makes our campus uglier.”
To sophomore Olivia Day, that maple tree outside of Huden was particularly special.
“That was my tree. That was like my safe place on campus,” Day said. “When you spend a lot of time with either a living being, a thing, or an inanimate object, you grow an emotional connection to it. It’s more than just a tree you pass every day.”
Assistant Director of Facilities Jake Rick recognized that this maple tree outside Huden would be one that was most upsetting to lose, but he stressed that, “we never would want to cut down a tree just for the sake of cutting [it] down.”
Following the snow and windstorm over break, many trees on campus were left damaged, the maple tree included. According to Rick, the trees that were taken down were those that had already fallen or that posed a safety hazard because of the damage.
Rick added that the death of a local Castleton community member during that storm after a tree fell on her, made them even more cautious.
“That really put an emphasis on the safety aspect of it and what we should do for our campus community and our students,” Rick said. “If there was a way to save it, we would have wanted to save it. But in talking with contractors and real tree experts, the best course of action was to unfortunately take that tree down.”
Day was glad to hear that the decision was not made lightly.
“I’m glad it wasn’t just from the conclusion of one person in administration that you know, they brought in a team and they thought about it carefully,” Day said.
And despite the fact that they had to cut it down, they still want to keep the maple tree on campus. Just in a different way.
“We’re planning on having [the wood] milled and we’ll turn it into a table or a podium. We haven’t decided, but we’re planning on using that tree to turn it into something,” Rick said.
In fact, the conference table currently in the facilities office was previously a big oak tree that had to be cut down when the gym was renovated.
“We’re not planning on wasting it,” Rick said.
However, Day is still upset that students were not informed that this was happening.
“I think this is a part of campus life. If tomorrow they got rid of the skatepark, a lot of people would be like, ‘What the hell?’” Day said. “I think when you’re going to change things that affect campus, you need to let your community know about it, even if you think it’s not gonna affect them. A tree is [just] a tree to a lot of people. But a tree is not just a tree to some people, even subconsciously.”