Tree removed for residence hall found to be in poor condition

The 192-year-old hackberry tree cut down near Buchanan Hall was found to be in very poor condition.

Photo courtesy of Facilities, Planning and Management

The 192-year-old hackberry tree cut down near Buchanan Hall was found to be in “very poor” condition.

Matthew Rezab

The 192-year-old hackberry tree removed May 19 to make room for a new residence hall on the ISU campus has been found to be in “very poor condition,” ISU officials said.

“The hackberry tree was in very poor condition and probably represented more of a significant threat to safety than we thought,” Dave Miller, associate vice president for Facilities, Planning and Management, said in a weekly email.

The removal of the hackberry, along with its 171-year-old black walnut counterpart, created controversy after school officials announced their intentions to build the $49.5 million structure last March. An online petition gathered more than 3,000 signatures asking the university to save the trees, but administrators’ opinions did not change.

In somewhat of a compromise, ISU officials agreed to incorporate the wood into the project.

We have retained the wood from the trees as planned,” said Pete Englin, director of the Department of Residence. “We will incorporate some of the wood into the new building and make the balance available to the College of Design for student work. As for specific uses, that is still in the planning processes.”

According to the USDA Forest Service, the average lifespan of a hackberry tree is 150-200 years, but trees in urban areas tend to live for a shorter period of time. 

“The hollowed out trunk only existed in the hackberry tree,” said Dan Nutini, project manager for the new residence hall. “The walnut tree is in fine condition, [and] will be made available for student work. In addition to the walnut and hackberry wood, some wood from an ash tree removed from the site will also be made available for student work.”

Nutini said the 784-student residence hall next to Buchanan Hall is scheduled to be move-in ready in time for spring semester 2017.