Spring snowstorm wreaks havoc on campus arboretum
Maintenance crews from University of Oregon’s Campus Operations are still digging out from the workload caused by a heavy blanket of snow on the second day of spring.
A preliminary count found that at least 88 trees suffered significant damage in the March 21 storm, with 15 considered “failures” – they either toppled under the snow’s weight or were so severely damaged they had to be cut down. Another three were “mortally damaged” and will be removed later, campus arborist John Anthony said.
“Many more tree sustained more minimal damage,” Anthony said. “I’m sure as time passes, we’ll find more damage that went previously unnoticed.
“The most spectacular (and shocking) loss was a 100 foot Pin Oak next to the Central Power Station that broke apart like a house of cards.”
A close second had to be the red maple that fell on a bike shelter just west of Johnson Hall – across 13th Avenue from another red maple outside Fenton Hall that suffered several broken limbs.
The unexpected storm – which dropped as much as eight inches of wet, heavy snow in Eugene – damaged just over 2.5 percent of the UO’s 3,300 trees. By comparison, the 1962 Columbus Day storm (Typhoon Frieda) downed 66 trees on campus and damaged scores more.
At least 500 species of trees have been planted on the UO’s 295-acre campus. Just two trees – including an Oregon White Oak that still stands – were on campus when Deady Hall was built in 1877 on an otherwise treeless knoll.
Anthony said the university didn’t lose “any of our heritage trees,” but several species were hit hard, including flowering plums, red maples, box elders, coast redwoods, flowering pears, elms and incense cedars.
“One of the saddest impacts from the heavy snowfall, in my opinion, was the damage done to our magnolia collection,” said campus landscape architect Jane Brubaker. “The saucer magnolias were full of buds and just getting ready to bloom. Not all were damaged, but several lost enough major branches to warrant the removal of the entire tree.
“Many conifers were damaged, the worst being an entire pine tree which keeled over outside of one of the entrances to the Hamilton dorm complex,” she said. “One of my personal favorites, the crepe myrtles, were also hit hard by the heavy snow.”
Brubaker said the trees that were lost in the recent storm will be replaced with new trees of similar size and character, but not necessarily of the same species.
“We try to respect the history of the landscape and the character of the open space as well as the intent of the designer,” she said. “Arboricultural research is always expanding, as to what species have better growth habits and stronger branch attachments, and we want to choose trees that will have the greatest longevity as well as help contribute to a beautiful and healthy landscape.”
For now, staff response to the tree damage has focused on debris removal, with trees posing safety hazards or blocking roadways and sidewalks receiving top priority. The Campus Operations exterior team – a total of about 14 employees and student workers – have been working on the clean-up efforts, which are expected to continue for several weeks.