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Sustainability Initiative at Aquinas College

  • trees

    Urban Forest Initiative

Urban Forest Initiative

The woodlands at Aquinas College are a distinctive feature of the college’s identity. The campus grounds are broadly used by our neighbors, help attract students and add significant value to the student experience. The Urban Forest Initiative aims to provide a structure, support, investment and engagement opportunities, and plan to better manage the Aquinas College campus woodlands. This initiative is an institutional priority with several components for both the short and long term, and engagement by many individuals across campus. 

Goats

Aquinas College welcomed a herd of goats July 17-23, 2021 for sustainable lawn care management. >More Information

Recognition

The “Tree Campus USA” designation from the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes campuses with a broad commitment to promoting healthy trees and community engagement opportunities. There are five broad requirements of the designation including 1) Campus Tree Advisory Committee; 2) Campus Tree Care Plan; 3) Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures; 4) Arbor Day Observance, and 5) Service Learning Project. Aquinas College is proud to be named a Tree Campus Higher Education since 2019. 

Leadership

Established in Spring 2019, the Campus Tree Advisory Committee (C-TAC) is charged with implementing the comprehensive campus tree care plan/Forest Management Plan, educating the campus population as to the benefits of the campus trees, engaging the community, and providing guidance for future forest planning. The members include: 

  • Community- Brian Hiemstra
  • Faculty- Dr. Rebecca Humphrey, and Dr. James Rasmussen
  • Staff/Facilities: Michael DeBoer and Jessica Eimer Bowen (chair)
  • Students- Rachael Roberts, Lauren Tulloch, and Zoe VanderBrug

Guiding Documents: Campus Tree Care Plan/Forest Management Plans

Our campus woodlands will best serve our needs if it’s managed according to a clear plan. Our Campus Tree Care Plan establishes numerous parameters for managing our forest, as well as short-term and long-term goals. Thanks to funding from the State of Michigan, the C-TAC created a 10 year Forest Stewardship Plan for the campus in 2021. We are more than happy to share our plans with interested individuals. Please contact the chair of the C-TAC. 

Goals:

  • 2022: Install quote plaques in the forest
  • 2022: Study of outdoor learning on campus
  • 2023: Develop hammock guidelines
  • 2023: Develop a policy for protecting ecologically desirable tree species
  • 2025: Investigate the feasibility of new forest sculptures
  • 2025: Improve pathways by incorporating “desire trails”
  • Short Term (2020): 1) Update the tree marker system
  • Mid-Term (2021-2024): 1) Manage our tree canopy such that the campus provides a home to every tree that is native to Michigan and is suited to our soil. 2) Develop annual celebrations of the trees. 3) Development of a Forest Management Plan, or similar document. 
  • Long-Term (2025 and on): 1) Achieve greater age class diversification of the Aquinas forest; 2) Develop a policy to ensure the protection of ecologically desirable trees, including historic trees.
  • Annual/On-Going Goals: 1) Manage tree health; 2) Plant trees to promote biological diversity, including native trees; 3) Selective tree removal to promote biological diversity and safety; 4) Manage invasive plant species; 5) Hold and consider developing new annual celebrations of the trees; 6) Promote usage of the tree map; 7) Pursue community mentoring partnerships; 8) Fundraising; 9) Maintain the Tree Campus Higher Education Designation with the Arbor Day Foundation.