CWU News

CWU Hosts Tree Campus Higher Education Service Learning Project

Several Central Washington University students and faculty took part in a Tree Campus Higher Education service-learning project Thursday (October 29). They helped collect needed data within the university’s riparian area, south of Munson Hall, which is known as “South Park.”

A riparian zone is an area located between land and a river or stream. In this case, the waterway is Wilson Creek. CWU conducts annual inspections and maintenance to monitor the health of the creek and the surrounding vegetation.

“Given the dense tree canopy in the area, some thinning of the Quaking Aspen population is normal,” said Blair McNeillie, CWU facilities management grounds supervisor. “Trees with signs of disease, poor health, or close proximity to others should be removed to thin the habitat for healthy trees to grow.”

Gordon Crane with the City of Ellensburg measures an aspen treeTo help make that determination, the participating students looked to identify trees that may be candidates for removal. They also identified all trees and other vegetation in the riparian zone and attempted to assess them based on their perceived health, pest concerns, and overall density. In addition, students counted and conducted diameter at breast height (DBH) measurements of the trees.

The tree count and DBH measurements will be used to calculate the storm water and carbon dioxide reduction benefits in the area, and will help determine the square-foot benefit to the vegetation in riparian areas on campus.
“This project is providing data we can use as a template for our future development of the riparian area throughout the Ellensburg campus,” McNeillie added. “Students may also use the data they collected for their coursework or other class projects.”  

Enhancing the riparian vegetation along Wilson Creek is an ongoing partnership between CWU and the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Stewardship Program. The two partners work together with guidance from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to plant native vegetation and encourage healthy fish habitats.

In recognition of the university’s efforts to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees, the Arbor Day Foundation named CWU a 2019 Tree Campus USA. The program has since been renamed Tree Campus Higher Education. CWU received the national award for meeting five standards, including establishing student service-learning projects.


Photos: (Top) L. to r. CWU sustainability coordinator Kathleen Klaniecki and science technician Jonathan Betz measure and catalogue the size and health of a pine tree. (Bottom) Gordon Crane with the City of Ellensburg measures an aspen tree.