By Shannon Higgins
Fallen branches and yellow caution tape greeted thousands of visiting prospective students and parents last week during Discover Ryerson, the university’s annual March Break tour.
More than 500 trees on campus were pruned or removed in an effort by Campus Planning and Facilities’ to promote healthy tree growth and to eliminate the hazard of dead branches falling on students.
Classes in Kerr Hall South were serenaded by the persistent buzzing of a wood chipper, and sidewalks were cordoned off with caution tape.
“When I was walking to class, I had wood chips flying at me,” said Rachel Beaton, a first-year hospitality and tourism student. Although a little annoyed, Beaton understands that the trees had to go. “If it has to be done, then it has to be done,” she said. Still, she was confused by the university’s timing. “Why would they do it now when we’re trying to recruit people?”
Administration said they didn’t see a conflict between Discover Ryerson and the annual tree pruning.
President Sheldon Levy said it hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“I didn’t even think of it, to be honest. I was a bit surprised by the mounds of stuff… it looked like mountains,” Levy said.
Registrar Keith Alnwick also knew about tree chopping but didn’t view it as a potential turnoff. “We were aware,” Alnwick said. “This just happened to be the time of year when we have to do these things.”
Alnwick said the guides were instructed to explain the situation to the 2,300 people signed up for tours.
Tyson Herwynen, a first-year business student and Discover Ryerson tour guide said the whole sidewalk was blocked and his large group all had to squeeze past the work. People had a hard time hearing what the guides were saying over the loud noise.
“They kept asking me about the trees,” Herwynen said. “They were curious, and I didn’t have any answers.”
Garth Poppleton, a supervisor at Campus Planning Facilities, said the university contracted the work to be done last week because the warmer weather made it safer.
Poppleton said it might actually be advantageous that prospective students were visiting. “It shows that we’re working on the school.”
He added that any tree removed will be replaced and was proud that there are more trees on campus now than in the past.
He also said that most of the pruned tree branches were recycled as bark chips for the flower beds.
Patricia Thomson, the general manager at Kelly’s Tree Care Limited in Scarborough, said Ryerson’s concrete setting makes maintenance crucial to the health of the tree.
Proper care is required to offset the bad soil and lack of water getting to the tree’s roots. “In urban conditions, trees have it really tough,” she said. “At Ryerson, there is a very small area for trees between the roadways and buildings. Trees also need to be pruned because they are in the way of power lines,” she added.
Thomson said Ryerson is restricted by guidelines from the City of Toronto as to how and why trees can be removed. Generally, dead, dying or structurally unsound trees should be cut down.