Cedar Dell restoration project underway, clearing of trees has begun
By ELISE DEPLANCHE
Staff Writer for the UMass Dartmouth Torch
Last week, the UMass Dartmouth Office of Campus and Community Sustainability began a week-long process of clearing trees near and in the Dell Woods to encourage the native wetlands to flourish.
Tom Paine, the project manager for the Office of Sustainability, noted that the project was inspired by a surprising discovery made two years ago, when the Sustainability Office conducted investigations for the soon-to-be-published Sustainability Assessment.
"We found that about a third of the way down the Cedar Dell Vista, there were Plymouth Gentians, which are native endangered flowers," Paine recalled. "And we also found New England Bluets, which are a threatened species of dragonfly."
The Sustainability Office then set out to ensure that the rare wetland species would continue to inhabit the area steadily being overtaken by trees. In order to realize this goal, the band of trees currently standing at the edge of the field cornered by Ring Road and Dell Road will be removed, along with a group of trees along the edge of Dell Pond.
The Dell Woods will also be "selectively thinned," as Paine put it, by removing scattered, singular trees throughout the wooded area.
While this may seem drastic, Paine explained that the actions being taken will benefit the forest in the long run.
"When settlers came to New England, they cut down almost all of the trees to make farmland," he began, "but then very abruptly there were no farms here as farming shifted to the Mid-West. The land then returned to forest, which means that a majority of the trees are the same size and age, which isn't how it would be in an old growth forest."
Paine went on to explain that selectively removing trees from the Dell Woods would create empty patches in the tree canopy. Such patches would allow more light to reach saplings struggling to survive at the forest floor, allowing a variety of trees to grow, not simply those that survive best in shady conditions. Hardwoods are especially lacking in the Dell Woods because they require so much light to grow successfully.
"There are a few hardwoods," said Paine, "but there aren't as many as there should be. And the ones that are there haven't grown as big as they could have." Additionally, the plan will allow campus to once again have a view of the Dell Pond from the Campus Center, south end of the library, and campanile areas.
Paul Rudolf 's original designs trails in the 330 acres of forest for the campus included a wide, cleared path that allowed for a view of the pond that would balance out the "industrial cement and glass architecture", as an email from the Office of Sustainability put it.
"Returning the original view- scape has significant value for preserving native habitat for endangered species," said Paine. "And there's [also] value in restoring the original intent of the design."
However, the cleared path leading to Dell Pond will be narrower than originally planned by Rudolf, and the view will be impeded slightly by a small selection of juniper trees that the Office of Sustainability has decided to leave in place.
Most of the area that will make up the view path is "natural grasslands," according to Paine.
"About 20 years ago, as the university transitioned from being SMU to UMass Dartmouth, they stopped mowing the lawn there, and trees grew in," Paine said.
The Cedar Dell Vista Restoration Project is the "first and more visible part" of a larger program called Living Classroom, which upper class design students are helping the Office of Sustainability establish. The program includes everything from the creation of more, well-marked walking behind the Athletic Center, to events emphasizing renewable energy on campus.
"The goal is to make students feel more connected to campus," said Paine. "We want them to be more engaged in sustainability on campus."
Both the Cedar Dell Vista Restoration Project and the creation of walking trails behind the Athletic Center are expected to be finished within the next few weeks and are extremely frugal projects for the university. Through the use of unpaid student volunteers, sponsorship from a state- funded Forest Stewardship program, and the money saved on future wood products, the project is expected to generate a net gain for the university.
Paine encourages students to contribute their ideas and voice their concerns about the Cedar Dell Vista Restoration Project and anything else related to sustainability on campus. Interested students can attend the first meeting of the Student Sustainability Advisory Council on Thursday, October 7 at 12:30 p.m. in the Campus Center conference room.
Students can also visit the Sustainability Initiative's office, located in room 206 of the Textiles Building, call the office at 508-910-6481 or email Paine at firstname.lastname@example.org.