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Arboretum Tour Showcases Tree Varieties on Campus

CANTON, New York — Those visiting the campus of St. Lawrence University now have the opportunity to satisfy their love of trees with the recently completed Arboretum Tour.

Three different routes comprise the Arboretum Tour, a series of self-guided excursions that leads students, faculty, staff, community members and visitors alike around campus grounds and identifies tree varieties with descriptive signage along the way. The origin for all three tours is Payson Hall, home to St. Lawrence’s Office of Admissions. In the building’s vestibule, tour takers can pick up colorful brochures that contain maps and descriptions of selected trees along the half-mile Sustainability Tour, the three-quarter mile Historic Campus Tour and one-and-a-quarter mile Athletic Tour.

The project concept began with Karl McKnight, associate professor of biology, who teaches ecology and botany and has a strong interest in trees himself.

“I’ve always loved trees, and I’ve always enjoyed the beauty of the trees we have here (at St. Lawrence),” McKnight said. “It’s been a dream of mine to showcase these graceful and elegant objects that adorn our campus.”

While McKnight may have had the original idea and served as the overall project manager, he said it took a team of students, staff, and faculty nearly four years to make the concept become a reality.

In the spring 2011 semester, the project received financial support from a campus Innovation Grant, which was proposed by Carol Cady, GIS librarian; Louise Gava, assistant director of the Sustainability Semester and sustainability coordinator; and Marcus Sherburne, grounds manager. Three of McKnights former students – Margaret Harrington ’14, of Londonderry, New Hampshire; Brett Ford ’14 of Madison, New York; and Korey Devins ’13 of Peru, New York – also had significant input into the project, helping to map, label and record with a GPS device each of the nearly 4,000 trees on campus.

The grant also provided funding for signage of selected trees that would eventually be included on the Arboretum Tour as well as the design and production of brochures to accompany each of the three circuits. Designed by graphic artist Kirsten Ward, each brochure contains a tour map as well as descriptions of the trees featured along the different routes.  Neal Burdick, director of editorial services at St. Lawrence, helped with the final editing of the tour signs and brochures.

“It was certainly a team effort that has gotten us to a point that we have an actual product on campus,” McKnight said. “But this is just round one. We’re going to need to keep the signs and maps up to date, and we may even look to add another tour in the future.”