By Ed Brennen
One of the premier green spaces on campus is a little greener thanks to a unique new partnership between the university, the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust and TD Bank.
The university recently planted 15 mature trees and 10 shrubs in the area behind the Allen House (in front of Sheehy Hall) on South Campus. The plantings were donated by the LPCT, courtesy of $10,000 in grant funding from TD Bank and its “TD Tree Days” program.
Recalling when the grass field used to be “one big, ugly parking lot,” Chancellor Jacquie Moloney praised the collaborative efforts that made the donations possible during a tree planting ceremony.
“Efforts like this make a big difference in our commitment to sustainability, and as we continue to transform our campus grounds,” Moloney told guests who included Lowell Mayor William Samaras, LPCT Executive Director Jane Calvin and more than a dozen TD Bank employees who volunteered alongside UML students and staff to plant the trees.
The partnership was coordinated by the university’s Office of Sustainability and Facilities Operations and Services, which worked with the LPCT to identify native species for the project.
Eight sycamores, each about 10 feet tall, were planted on the lawn between Sheehy Hall and the outdoor basketball courts. Seven red maples were planted on the edge of the university property along Pawtucket Street, opposite the red maples already growing across the street along the riverbank.
“As you come down Pawtucket Street in years to come, it’s going to create a nice canopy,” said Joe LoBuono, associate director for grounds and services, whose team provided compost generated from campus dining hall food waste to use for planting.
Earlier this fall, the LPCT and the city of Lowell donated 12 trees that the university planted on North Campus, outside of Olsen Hall (along Sarah Avenue) and between the Cushing Field Complex and the VFW Highway.
LoBuono noted that, when combined with the 15 trees planted behind the Allen House, the university has netted 31 new trees across campus this year — a number that will bolster the university’s Tree Campus USA certification by the Arbor Day Foundation.
“This is the next step in our commitment to the Tree Campus USA designation,” said Director of Sustainability Ruairi O’Mahony, who added that the university looks forward to partnering with the LPCT on future funding opportunities. As an urban campus, he said it’s important for the university to view sustainability as a “community-based effort, with a shared approach to outcomes that are beneficial to all of us.”
“It’s a great combination of ideas and energy that made this project happen,” added Calvin, who showed volunteers how to carefully roll the heavy trees into holes that were pre-dug by Operations and Services.
Calvin noted that each tree can intercept up to 2,500 gallons of stormwater per year. They will also help reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Combined, the trees can absorb around 700 pounds of carbon dioxide while potentially reducing energy consumption by providing shade for nearby buildings.
They will also make the view of the Merrimack River even more picturesque. Over the summer, LoBuono and Grounds Operations Manager Erik Shaw planted a variety of wildflowers — including daisies, snapdragons, lupine and baby’s breath — on the slope below the Allen House patio, which used to be overrun by weeds. Designed as a pollinator habitat site for birds, butterflies and bees, the project was funded by an $8,000 S.E.E.D. grant from the university.
“It’s an area that could use a little sprucing up,” LoBuono said as volunteers shoveled rich, dark compost around the tree roots. “This is going to be a really nice area for students.”