The construction boom reshaping UMass Lowell with new academic and research buildings, state-of-art dorms and gleaming parking facilities isn’t the only transformation taking place on campus. The University’s landscape is also undergoing a metamorphosis, thanks to dozens of new trees and shrubs and hundreds of perennials that are bringing pops of color, greenery and shade to every corner of campus.
“The landscaping can make a huge difference,” says grounds manager Ryan McCaughey, who came to UMass Lowell three years ago after holding a similar position at Fresno State in California.
Since his arrival, McCaughey has overseen the planting of 50 trees and numerous flower beds. Last fall 3,000 daffodils bulbs were planted, blooming for the first time this spring. McCaughey has sought out and planted hundreds of other low-maintenance perennials, including Echinacea, daylilies, Black-eyed Susan, Astilbe and ornamental grasses. A number of flowering bushes and shrubs such as lilacs and Spirea have also been added to the landscape.
Because of the high volume of students, visitors, faculty and staff that are in and out of buildings along Solomont Way, McCaughey targeted that area of South Campus for improvements. Trees were planted along the street and the grounds around Weed Hall were re-worked, with more than 70 rose bushes added along the side of the building that faces Solomont Way. This summer, a profusion of red, pink, coral and yellow blooms appeared. Outside the building’s entryway, 5-foot-tall hibiscus plants offered showy pink blossoms.
While the landscaping improvements beautify the campus, they also offer quantifiable benefits that can impact the University’s bottom line. For instance, the trees planted around the new Emerging Technology and Innovation Center will cut atmospheric carbon by an estimated 4,200 pounds annually, McCaughey says.
Although its 150 acres sit squarely in a city setting, UMass Lowell is earning recognition for its landscaping and tree-cultivation efforts. This year, for the second year in a row, the University was named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation,
a national conservation and education organization. UMass Lowell is the only university in the state and one of two New England institutions to earn the distinction.
The grounds crew has mapped out a tree walk on South Campus, with 42 different types of trees including a Horse Chestnut, a Hawthorne, an American Buckeye and a Black Tupelo, identified and labeled. McCaughey estimates the oldest trees on campus are the massive oaks just outside Allen House. They have been around for at least 150 years, according to archival photos of the grounds.
The tree walk provides a leafy escape for the campus community and local residents, who want to stroll, view the plantings or grab a bench in a shady spot. McCaughey hopes to create a campus arboretum and work is under way to identify and map every tree on campus, of which there are more than 1,000.