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College slated to remove black oak tree to enhance campus safety

WVU Potomac State College continually strives to enhance the environment whenever possible. These efforts include the effective management of urban trees across our campus including tree-planting and caring for existing trees. However, effective urban tree management also involves the removal of trees when they become a potential safety hazard to our campus community.

A case in point is the black oak tree on Campus Drive in front of Science Hall. The College has partnered with WVU’s Roads and Grounds Department from Morgantown to assess the health and potential safety risks of this tree that stands in a high pedestrian and vehicular traffic area on campus.  

According to WVU’s International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist, Josh Pritts, because the tree is in an area surrounded by asphalt, it has, over the years, sustained root compaction and damage, causing stress to the tree’s root system leading to the canopy die-back. Pritts believes a significant split in the trunk has led to some decay in the tree, leaving it unstable.

“The tree really is considered a threat to pedestrians and vehicular traffic,” Pritts said.

After receiving Pritts’ assessment, Potomac State College administration decided to proactively remove the tree and removal is scheduled during Thanksgiving break for minimal disruption to the campus community. The College has contracted with ISA-certified arborist, David Mitchell with Mitchell Tree Care to complete the removal and stump grinding.

Upon removal, the College hopes to be able to honor the tree’s legacy through production of a piece of furniture that will benefit the campus-at-large; however, the quality and quantity of viable residual timber can’t be assessed until the tree is removed.  

It is yet to be decided what will be done with the small island where the tree once stood but arborists advise that another large tree species not be planted in its place due to urban stressors.

According to George Cayton, Potomac State’s grounds supervisor, there have been approximately 55 trees planted across campus throughout the past 15 years as the result of student initiatives by the Life Sciences Club in recognition of Arbor and Earth Days. Funding for the tree plantings has been made possible by the Cacapon Foundation. In other instances, private donors and campus organizations planted trees in memory of students who have passed.

“Trees add value to the environment and to the beauty of our campus and we work hard to manage them as the assets that they are,” Cayton said.

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