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Camperdown Elm at Amherst College to be spared, moved 90 feet to make way for new football facility

  • Camperdown Elm tree on the Amherst College athletic fields.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS<br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Camperdown Elm tree on the Amherst College athletic fields.
    CAROL LOLLIS


    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • This 19th-century Camperdown Elm was going to chopped down to make way for improvements at the Amherst College athletic fields until neighbors stepped in and said, "No way." The healthy tree is losing its foliage now, as it does every fall.<br/> CAROL LOLLIS

    This 19th-century Camperdown Elm was going to chopped down to make way for improvements at the Amherst College athletic fields until neighbors stepped in and said, "No way." The healthy tree is losing its foliage now, as it does every fall.
    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Camperdown Elm tree on the Amherst College athletic fields.<br/>CAROL LOLLIS<br/><br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • This 19th-century Camperdown Elm was going to chopped down to make way for improvements at the Amherst College athletic fields until neighbors stepped in and said, "No way." The healthy tree is losing its foliage now, as it does every fall.<br/> CAROL LOLLIS

Camperdown Elms with their green mushroom canopy and twisted branches are unusual trees that were popular in Victorian times. They are seldom seen in landscapes today partly because they must be created by grafting.

The elm was discovered in the early 19th century growing on the Camperdown estate in Dundee, Scotland, and all specimens are progeny of that original tree. Most of the American specimens were planted in the late 19th century.

Amherst College has one of the few specimens in our area — and it was almost chopped down to make way for renovations at Pratt Field, the home of the Lord Jeffs football team. The Amherst tree probably dates back to the 19th century when the original Pratt Field was opened.

When college officials last spring announced plans to build a $12.5 million new field house and reconstruct the football field with artificial turf, nearby residents — almost all college faculty or administrators — expressed concern about the tree on the edge of the field.

They were told it would have to be destroyed. No way, the neighbors countered.

It was May, in the midst of exams and the end of the academic year so, “It took a while for the neighborhood to get organized,” said Rebecca Sinos, a classics professor who lives near the entrance to Pratt Field where she regularly exercises her dog. They raised questions at a faculty meeting and sent a protest letter to President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin.

The concerned neighbors met with Jim Brassord, director of facilities, and Suzanne Coffey, director of athletics. Sinos reported the administrators told them saving the tree was out of the question because of the cost: $100,000. Brassord said last week that at that time they were still considering moving the tree despite the cost.

Meanwhile the abutters did their research on the possibility of moving it and consulted Michael Marcotrigiano, director of the Smith College Botanic Garden, which has a similar Camperdown Elm. Marcotrigiano sent a letter in favor of moving the tree instead of chopping it down. The group also marshaled support from the town’s Public Shade Tree Committee, which also sent letters, and Larry Kelley, a local activist, publicized the dilemma on his blog.

In early July, about 20 people met with Martin, who took the issue under advisement. Finally, in late summer, Sinos learned that the college would spend the money to move the tree 90 feet northwest. Bartlett Tree Experts is in charge of the project. They have erected a fence around the tree, fertilized it and pruned the root ball in advance of moving it in the spring.

Brassord said the college recognizes the historic value of the tree as well as the fact that it is a healthy specimen. The administration decided the Camperdown Elm recommended preservation based on its own merits. He acknowledged, however, that the support from the community highlighted the tree’s importance.

Sinos said she is satisfied with the solution. “It’s such a special tree,” she said.

Related

Autumn splendor is on display at Applewood Arboretum in Amherst

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It’s the season to appreciate trees. Whether you admire the changing foliage of deciduous trees in yellow, red, pumpkin or burgundy or the contrast of deep-hued evergreens, trees and shrubs are especially prominent in the fall. An unusually peaceful place to enjoy the foliage is at the Applewood Arboretum, which is conservation land owned by the Town of Amherst off …

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