Northwestern State, in collaboration with the Student Government Association, the city of Natchitoches and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, has started a project to restore trees throughout campus, especially in areas deemed historic districts.
NSU has lost trees over time to disease, storm damage and construction; four were removed in July and August 2017. A committee has been tasked with mapping where trees once existed, if they are still there and which species of trees should be planted in those areas that lack trees.
“[We] hope to introduce more native species throughout the campus where we need trees, either to replace invasive species or to enhance the campus environment,” said Dr. Margaret Cochran, professor of ecology and mathematics.
For trees that are diseased or dying, Gil Gilson, capital outlay and special projects coordinator at NSU, said he has tried to save seeds those trees produced. If the seeds are planted and grow successfully, then they are descendants of the original trees that once stood on campus.
In the case of the Chinese tallow trees, however, the species will not be restored, but rather fully removed. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services, the Chinese tallow is an invasive species and “the most successful exotic invader of … Louisiana.”
SGA President Tre Nelson has reported on the progress of the tree initiative at the past three SGA meetings and said Dr. Cochran has shown him a few areas in person that need improvement.
“SGA is … going to be planting a few trees just to build up the tree population on a short-term basis, and then long-term we have a big three-year plan,” Nelson said about the organization’s involvement with the project.
Gilson said he has been cataloging trees on the entire campus and identifying their species in order to create an updated record for future use. While creating the registry, Gilson made sure to take photos of each tree.
He also mentioned the recreation of a walking trail that had many trees along it in the 1960s and 70s, according to Gilson.
“We found in the original walk there were 25 trees that they highlighted to walk around and see,” he said. “Of that 25, I think 15 are gone.
“It’s amazing how many are gone [from all over campus]… [With] all the bad weather we’ve had for the last five years, we’ve probably lost about 40 or 50 trees.”
Gilson said the goal is to make the trail interactive using smartphone technology that can provide information about the tree, such as its age and who planted it.
Additionally, they are looking to expand the current bird trail and later create a walking and biking trail in the forest area on Highway 6 near the land dedicated to the new Natchitoches sports park.
The city of Natchitoches has also taken the initiative to plant more trees, deeming January 2018 “Arbor Month.” According to the Natchitoches Parish Journal, “These trees are just the beginning.”
The committee will meet again on Feb. 22 to discuss the project further.