This old oak

View from sidewalk of man in hydraulic lift cutting tree limb

Photos by Christopher Gannon.

While team members look on from below, Kurt Garretson, a tree trimmer with the campus services team in facilities plannning and management, cuts limbs from a diseased red oak northwest of Curtiss Hall Monday morning, early in the process of removing it. The tree, more than 100 years old, was weakened by Ganoderma, an aggressive root rot fungus that impacts a tree's stability and kills limbs over time. Since it was in an area with high pedestrian traffic, the tree came down as a safety precaution. Smaller branches had begun to fall on their own.

According to records, the tree was part of a grove of eight oaks planted in 1917 to honor the memory of Seaman Knapp, who served as the first chair of the agriculture program (1879) and later, the second president of Iowa State College (1883-84). 

"We don't like to take down trees, but it's our job, especially when there's a potential danger," Garretson said.

The campus services team removes trees year round; the timing usually depends on the location and condition of a tree, said Barb Steiner, facilities maintenance manager. Winter break is an ideal time to remove trees -- foot traffic is light on campus -- but frigid temperatures and scheduled staff vacations stalled progress this year. Next on the team's removal list are trees in decline near the band practice field, by the Youth 4-H Building and on central campus.