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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 9 | July 4, 2002

Campus Tree Team Stays on the Cutting Edge

Kindred spirits collaborate on the care of UBC's woods.

By Michelle Cook

If a tree falls at UBC, it turns out that there are people -- a whole team in fact -- who will hear it.

The handful of specialists who tend to UBC's trees includes 22 landscape technologists -- a.k.a. gardeners -- and 15 labourers to help them out.

Their mission: to protect, maintain and enhance UBC's landscape. With more than 7,000 tagged trunks spread across 600 acres, it's a big job.

On days that begin before dawn, the team spreads out across campus to plant trees, prune them, brace them with steel cables, and combat the diseases, construction damage and insect attacks that threaten them. Upon a tree's demise, from old age or otherwise, they are there to take it down at the end of its life.

As the stewards of the campus landscape, what really excites this group is planting lots of new trees, shrubs and plants, like the 500 they recently added to the scenery at Cecil Green Park House, for future generations to enjoy.

And then there are the days the tree team dreads. In September 1999, a fierce windstorm toppled more than 60 lofty giants in a few hours. Crews rushed to campus to clear roads and keep people away from hazardous areas. Several weeks later, they were still cleaning up.

But the demise of even one old soul can leave its mark on this dedicated group.

Head gardener Kreso Pavlovic remembers his saddest day on the job was when he had to take down a majestic sequoia in front of Main Library.

"It was under stress from changes brought on by construction nearby," Pavlovic recalls. "Even though we saved the wood, I was sorry that it didn't have the chance to live to 800 years old. Losing trees is a lot like a person dying, but the best we can do is think about replacing them."

Meet the tree team

Four people guide the bulk of the university's landscaping, including tree care. With the help of a computerized tree inventory and a $3.5 million annual budget, they are the ones who create new landscapes and determine maintenance work.

Andrew Wilson
Urban Designer/Landscape Architect
Years on campus: 4
His job: Designing landscapes for the UBC community out of the office of the university architect Tom Llewellin.
His challenge: Making sure that all new landscape projects fit seamlessly into the campus like pieces in a puzzle. "Every change in this landscape, I'm involved in, but it's not about me as a designer, it's about what I can do to help the university achieve its goals."
His roots: Urban and regional planning and landscape architecture.
His tools: A Computer Assisted Design (CAD) program and a head full of ideas.
He's busiest: In summer. "Once the funding comes in April, we have to get projects up and running for September."
His favourite campus tree: The magnificent White Elm on Agricultural Rd. by the Hennings Bldg.
If he were a tree, he'd be: Grounded.

David Smith
Landscape Supervisor
Years on campus: 3
His job: He looks after the logistics of campus landscape, including the annual work plan, the operational budget, and the crews.
His challenge: Logistics. "We really do have to prioritize where we do the work. Some areas don't get visited more than once a year. Other places like the Rose Garden get visited frequently and are treated to a high level of maintenance."
His tools: A Geographical Information System (GIS) computer program that maps the location of every tree on campus.
He's busiest: In winter, when all the major pruning and reconstruction work is done.
His favourite campus tree: A "truly spectacular" oak on Main Mall near the Barn.
If he were a tree, he'd be: A bristlecomb pine, because "it's a tree that seems to survive in harsh environments and adapt well, and I guess I've always considered myself to be able to do that."

Collin Varner
University Arboriculturist
Years on campus: 16. Two in his current position.
His job: Inspecting the trees for insects and disease, and assessing hazards. "I help keep the aesthetics under control on campus, but it's definitely part insurance policy too."
His challenge: Keeping the biggest trees alive and healthy, and ensuring they don't get damaged by construction and campus expansion.
His roots: Horticulture. He's worked at the Botanical Garden, owned an arboretum and written five local tree guides. He even gives expert testimony in lawsuits involving trees.
His tools: A library of reference books and a pencil for notes.
He's busiest: Year round. Winter is good for maintenance; summer is best for inspection.
His favourite campus tree: A rare Chinese fir near Main Library.
If he were a tree, he'd be: A giant sequoia because "they live to be 3,000 - 4,000 years old. Give me longevity."

Kreso Pavlovic
Head Landscape Technologist
Years on campus: 26. Head gardener since 1992.
His job: Working with the crewsto bring the landscape architect's vision to life, and keepingUBC's green areas beautiful and healthy.
His challenge: "The campus is twice as big as when I arrived in 1975, but the size of the crews is still the same."
His roots: Originally from a farming community in Croatia, Pavlovic's interest in soil and plants goes back to high school.
His tools: Good equipment - everything from leaf blowers to backhoes.
He's busiest: Late fall, early winter. "In this climate, planting during the winter is best."
His favourite campus tree: The oaks on Main Mall.
If he were a tree, he'd be: An oak because "a single tree in a big field provides shade for farmers, and a place for people to gather under it."


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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