Rocky Mount, NC—One of the most striking features of North Carolina Wesleyan College’s campus is the tall pines that grace the areas around many buildings and athletic facilities. In addition, areas of mature pines and other trees cover many of the undeveloped sections of Wesleyan’s 200-acre campus.
The college’s new president, Dr. Dewey Clark, says he has seen Wesleyan’s trees and forests grow and mature since the early 1980s, when he was a student at Wesleyan. Now, as president, he and other college officials are making plans to improve the health of the trees on campus.
“We want to develop a forest management plan to address the condition of our trees and forest areas,” President Clark said. “Aesthetics are a major concern, but so is forest health.”
To improve the condition of campus trees, Clark said Wesleyan has reached out to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and to Nash County Ranger Bill Lewis and to Alan Moore, an Eastern Region Urban Forestry Specialist and certified arborist.
“These experts have provided us with guidance and advice for developing a comprehensive campus tree plan,” Clark said. “The plan is badly needed, because fully mature and unmanaged forestland such as what we have developing at Wesleyan will eventually reach an age where declining forest tree health can result in insect infestation, forest tree disease, and dead trees that can create a fire hazard.”
Clark said that after meeting with forest management experts, college officials decided to begin a selective thinning timber harvest, in addition to pruning or removing some individual trees. The work is expected to get under way in late July.
“We will be doing a hand-marked selective thinning timber harvest so we can leave the best trees and promote their growth,” Clark said. “At the same time, we’ll remove potentially hazardous limbs and trees that are too close to residence halls and other buildings. The tree pruning will be completed before students return in late August, and the hand-marked selective thinning timber harvest will be finished by November.”
Clark said that at the end of one growing season after the timber is thinned, a herbicide will be applied to prevent an understory of vegetation from growing back. “This is recommended because thinning the trees will let more sunlight shine on the forest floor and cause an increase in vegetation,” he explained.
For purposes of tree management, the forested areas on campus have been divided into six specific regions. “The North Carolina Forest Service will be fully involved with all cutting operations to ensure that any water quality issues are handled according to best management practices,” Clark added.
“Ideally, at some point after the tree and forestry management plan has been implemented, we hope Wesleyan can apply for recognition in the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA Program. This will help Wesleyan ensure that the beauty of the campus trees and forest areas can continue to be shared with many generations to come.”