Tree nursery provides ecological opportunity

By Hannah McKelvey

Staff Writer

On Friday morning, students broke ground on the new Native Tree Nursery in the grassed areas between Alliot, Joyce, and Dion Hall. 

Trees planted at the nursery will start their life under student care, and will then move across Route 15 to St. Michael’s Natural Area, where they can grow on their own; creating a unique dynamic of a restoration conservation process. The plan is to plant trees specifically chosen for the Champlain Valley, obtaining the saplings from Burlington’s Intervale Center, a local conservation nursery.

Anna Beach (left) and Olivia Hansen (right) add dirt to one of the beds on Friday. (Photo by Matt Heller)

Students from Trevien Stanger’s Ecological Restoration class started the process by making tree beds, putting down landscape fabric, cardboard, and mulch to get the area ready for trees. “[Cardboard] will add organic material to the soil and help it regain nutrients because the soil that is on campus is not necessarily beneficial to tree growth because it’s only had grass on it,” explained Ethan Brookner ’20.

“This project will allow students at St. Michael’s to do more placed-based education, utilizing the natural area as a classroom to continue to build our relationship to it as a site and as a place,” Stanger said.

One goal for this project is to get more people involved with the Center for the Environment, the St. Michael’s Farm, and the Natural Area. “It will allow folks right on their daily paths to stop and learn more about what’s going on and hopefully even consider getting involved,” Stanger said.  

Members of professor Stanger’s Ecological Restoration class shovel dirt and woodchips to prepare beds for the Native Tree Nursery last Friday. The trees, which will be planted this Friday, will spend time under the care of the Center for the Environment and environmental classes before eventually moving to the Natural Area across Route 15.  
(Photo by Matt Heller)

By having the Natural Area and the St. Michael’s Farm on the other side of Route 15, it makes it hard for students not involved in environmental programs to know what the school has to offer. Professor Brian Collier’s Ecological Art class will be participating by making signs to give people a baseline knowledge about the site. Ecological Art “is a genre of artworks that address or work directly with ecological systems, ecological restoration, and environmental issues through interdisciplinary, often collaborative projects,” Collier said. His class will also unveil a surprise contribution to the nursery that the campus will have to wait to see. 

As for the future of the Native Tree Nursery, trees will be planted on Friday. If you want to get involved, head over to the site in between Alliot and Joyce starting at 11 a.m. Students and faculty will be there until all the trees are planted.