In April, Dr. Judy Lemons agreed to be chairwoman of Hannibal-LaGrange University’s Tree Campus USA Committee. Little did she know what a hit the university’s landscape would take less than a month later.
“I thought sure ... easy,” says Lemons, regarding her reaction to being asked by Dr. Anthony Allen, HLGU president, to head the committee. “We’ll plant some trees, do an inventory, take care of them and then in May we had the storm, so the focus changed quite a bit.”
The storm packing tornadic winds hit the HLGU campus particularly hard.
“I don’t know how many trees were totally lost, but we had 92 that were severely damaged or totally lost,” said Lemons.
A step toward restoring the university’s lost trees will take place next week when a total of 15 State Street Maples are planted.
“We’re going to put 14 new ones along the entry road and then we’re going to put one up there by the old library,” said Lemons. “It’s a beautiful tree that is yellow in the fall. It’s disease resistant and drought resistant.”
The trees being planted will not be saplings.
“Dr. Allen wanted good-sized trees,” said Lemons. “They are 3.5-inch diameter and 12- to 15-foot trees.”
The trees are coming from a nursery in Hermann.
“It was really hard to find 14 of that size tree. That’s where I finally found them,” said Lemons.
Getting the trees to Hannibal will be only part of the challenge.
“We have to have someone plant them who has the backhoe or spader who can dig a hole because these things are 1,200- to 1,500-pound trees,” said Lemons. “They’ll have a big root ball, so the hole has to be bigger than that.
“We have a nursery person coming in with his equipment. He’ll plant them and we’ll help. Our groundskeeper, Cory Miller, will water and take care of them.”
A tree planting ceremony has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. Among those invited to attend is Edward Walsh, who makes his home in North Carolina. As a freshman at then-Hannibal-LaGrange College in 1959, Walsh helped plant the original trees that lined the entry drive.
“He said at that time he actually went down to the old barn, when we had a dairy farm, and trucked up cow manure to pack around the trees,” said Lemons.
Next week’s planting of trees will be the first of many such events in the future.
Page 2 of 2 - “Hopefully we will plant trees every April and every late fall until we get it where we want it to be,” said Lemons.