PULLMAN — President Elson S. Floyd met Friday morning in Thompson Hall with faculty, staff and students concerned about the removal of trees in connection with the ongoing Library Road project.
Group spokesman, Michael Hanly, professor in the department of English, said that Floyd was presented with a petition signed by a number of faculty, staff, students, alums and parents — and called attention to a Facebook group dedicated to the preservation of the trees comprising over 1,600 members of the WSU community.
Hanly said “both the signatories and those present expressed their dismay with the widespread destruction of mature trees now underway, and with the apparent gulf between the actions of Capital Planning and Development, and conservation policies practiced shared by faculty, staff and students, past and present.”
Floyd said that, while his options are limited at this late stage of the project, he would consider the comments and the documents presented at the meeting and notify people who attended of any decision that is made. Meeting attendees were particularly concerned about the potential removal of the Avery Hall grove, a group of trees located between Avery Hall and the Bookie building.
“Over the next several weeks, we will have a rendering of the site outside of Avery Hall as contemplated under the current construction plan for your review and inspection. I am pleased to inform you that the removal of the trees is being held in abeyance until this review is completed,” Floyd wrote in a follow-up e-mail to the meeting participants.
Several people at the meeting spoke about the importance of saving older trees to protect the traditional look and feel of the campus and said that any replacement trees that were planted would take decades to grow to the stature of the trees that would be removed. Several also said they felt they weren’t fully informed of the scope of the project before it was begun.
“We’re very pleased that President Floyd has agreed to take control of this situation,” said Hanly “and remain hopeful that a reasonable conclusion can be reached that will both spare the trees in the Avery Grove and advance the essential goals of the Library Road Project.”
Capital Planning and Development held public hearings and forums in advance of the project, but Floyd told the group that the university needed a better way to make sure the campus community is fully informed of any such projects in the future. He said the university would create a campus beautification committee to work with Capital Planning and Development on any future projects to make certain that information was disseminated and campus concerns were taken into account at an early stage of projects.
Funding, delays and changes
Floyd said the contract has already been awarded for the underground tunnel work that would impact the Avery Hall trees. He said the university is concerned that if delays or changes in the project result in additional costs, that might make it more difficult for the university to obtain legislative funding for future capital funding projects.
“Our bread and butter comes from the Legislature,” said Floyd, who said the upcoming biennial budget session promises to be a difficult one because of projected state budget shortfalls.