Fairfax Campus Relocates Mature Trees to Keep ‘Traditional Look’

Posted: November 5, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Mason is staying green, despite the changing colors of fall.

Over the last few weeks, Mason’s Facilities Management office devised and implemented a plan to save 17 mature trees that were growing in future construction sites. Rather than being cut down, nearly all of the trees were relocated to other areas on campus.

Workers trimming the tree's roots
Workers trim a tree’s roots prior to transplanting.

Most of the trees were located next to the Performing Arts Building, which will soon undergo an extensive addition. In addition to the 17 relocated trees, another seven were saved from removal after alterations were made to the design plans. Many of the trees were moved to areas surrounding the new on-campus housing developments, while others can now be seen outside the Patriot Center, Enterprise Hall and Research I.

Preparing a tree for moving
Preparing a tree for moving, above, and on the move, below.

Moving the tree

“The trees around the Performing Arts Building were, and still are, some of the most beautiful trees on campus,” says Ralph Lewis, a facilities manager overseeing the project. “It was a no-brainer when we decided to save them and move them to other areas around campus that were in need of trees.”

With so much building taking place at Mason, portions of the campus’ original foliage have had to be removed to allow for construction. Generally, landscaping budgets only include enough money to purchase young trees that can take decades to develop.

“This is a magnificent university, and we’re in the middle of a tremendous expansion program,” Lewis says. “But sadly, it’s very difficult to find sufficient funding to invest in landscaping ― landscaping that gives Mason that ‘traditional university’ look.”

A relocated tree
A newly transplanted tree.

Most of the trees cost an average of approximately $1,000 to remove and replant. To purchase a tree similar in size and age would cost upwards of $20,000. Only one tree, a willow oak, was too large to cost-effectively relocate.

relocated tree outside Enterprise Hall
A relocated tree outside Enterprise Hall.
Photos courtesy of Facilities Management

In the weeks leading up to the extraction, the trees were given extra amounts of water and fertilizer to help them survive the shock of being removed. Each tree required extensive root pruning ― a gentle way of cutting the roots ― to properly excavate the tree without damaging the overall root structure.

“I know a lot of people who would tell us, ‘It’s just a tree. Cut it down, turn it into firewood and go buy a new one for $100,’” Lewis says. “But most of the people we hear from are telling us what a great thing this is for the look of the university, not to mention a great thing for the environment.”

Clearing the trees is the first step as developers begin construction on the addition to the Performing Arts Building. The project will add dance and orchestra practice spaces, larger performance halls and even a training room for performers. The building will also feature a grand entrance facing the George Mason Boulevard circle.

Write to at