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Sustainability in Grounds

See below the Grounds section of the 2021 Ohio University Sustainability & Climate Action Plan.  Click on the image to view a document with clickable hyperlinks.

Grounds category, SCAP

Comments and responses from public forums on the Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Grounds section:

Do the strategies to reach the targets in this category of the draft 2021 OHIO Sustainability & Climate Action Plan seem appropriate to you? Response
I would also like to propose increasing natural growth by residence halls. For example, promoting more native plants or pollinator gardens on the different greens that can grow freely and undisturbed. Thank you for your comment, we are currently working on increasing naturalized areas and including pollinator specific areas. We will share your comment with Grounds regarding Res Life areas specifically

I think that a key missing piece here is community engagement and student involvement, especially within goal #1. As an undergraduate, I would love opportunities to work on naturalizing landscapes, creating pollinator habitats, and learning more about sustainable grounds maintenance options, as I'm sure other students would too. This could even be an opportunity for some classes to get outside with experiential learning, or to help students fulfill community service hours. There should also be clear signage at naturalized/pollinator sites to help explain to students that these are significant and innovative areas, not just unmaintained spaces.
Thank you for your comments. If you are not already a Climate & Sustainability Ambassador I recommend you join that group. Activities are being planned to work on Grounds, including removing invasives and installing pollinator habitats. The experiential learning piece in goal 1 will connect students to the community. Signage does exist on campus for intentional naturalized areas, and monarch waystations but signage could be improved and expanded. We also appreciate your suggestion to decrease mowing and will make sure it is a proposed strategy in implementation guide. Please note that river corridor is maintained by Hocking Conservancy District and all policies are under their jurisdiction.
Do the costs and benefits in this category of the draft 2021 OHIO Sustainability & Climate Action Plan seem appropriate for the goals?  Response

Staff time of goal #1 could be minimized by using student volunteers/classwork.

Other benefits that should be added under goal #1 include biodiversity/local flora and fauna benefits and water/air/noise pollution reductions from reducing chemical/machine needs.

Benefits will be added.
If you have additional comments on this category, please provide below. Response
Birdhouses put around campus would be really cool and a unique thing. Thank you for your comment. We do have bluebird boxes already in some locations and would like to add more!
Naturalized areas are excellent teaching and university reputation tools and should be employed far and wide. Yes.
I think it would be in-line with already included goals to add a stipulation required that all plants and trees planted in university landscaping from this point on are native species. Goals including creating specific units/habitats for bats, birds, and bees should continue to be pursued. Another strategy for Goal 2 (which is already partly included in Goal 1) would be to simply reduce the number of grounds that need deliberate care and maintaining -- in other words, pursuing naturalization in all areas possible would be an incredibly effective way to reduce grounds-related emissions from the start.

Will discuss native species comment with Grounds, not sure 100% is attainable but that is policy of department

Naturalized areas continue to be developed.

View some of OHIO's innovative green infrastructure features at


 Tree Campus USA | Bee Campus USAIPM Plan | Grounds Equipment | Bluebird Trail | Naturalized Areas

Ohio University's Athens Campus is a Tree Campus Higher Education USA!

Ohio University Grounds Department, with support from the Office of Sustainability, received the Tree Campus Higher Education USA Designation by the Arbor Day Foundation for the fifth year in a row. The university was honored in spring 2021 for calendar year 2020. The University has received the designation annually since 2016.

The following pages provide supplementary details regarding Ohio University's progress in fulfilling the Arbor Day Foundation's five standards for application completion:

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Standard 1: Ohio University Tree Advisory Committee

(est. July 28, 2015)

Tree advisory committee picture of a tree next to a building

The mission and purpose of the Ohio University Tree Advisory Committee centers upon five roles: 

  1. Providing support to the Grounds Department in their planning for, education about and maintenance of campus trees. This can take the form of research, reporting, advocacy or fundraising, as appropriate or desired by the Landscape Coordinator.
  2. Development of community-wide programming and outreach that illustrates that campus trees create connectivity to the community. This is to be accomplished through Arbor Day event planning (can be held on Arbor Day or throughout the year, as appropriate for the academic calendar).
  3. Updating, publishing and advocating for the implementation of the Campus Tree Care Plan.
  4. Managing annual service learning projects and academic coursework to provide an opportunity to engage the student population with campus trees. Projects should follow the criteria established by the Tree Campus USA Standards through the Arbor Day Foundation.
  5. Coordination of the annual submission of resources for certification as a Tree Campus USA.

The Ohio University Tree Advisory Committee therefore seeks to contribute to environmental well-being and the achievement of a more sustainable future through conservation of campus trees. In carrying out these roles, the Ohio University Tree Advisory Committee will communicate and partner with the Ohio University and Athens communities to raise awareness of positive and negative efforts that respectively promote or deter the health of campus trees and associated canopy cover.

Ohio University Tree Advisory Committee Composition

In accordance with requirements established by the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA program, this committee must include, at minimum, a representative from each of the following campus constituencies:

  • Office of Sustainability (any member of the full-time staff)
  • Landscape Coordinator (as a representative of Facilities Management)
  • Student (undergraduate or graduate)
  • Faculty
  • Community (preferably Regional Urban Forester with ODNR's Division of Forestry)
  • Additional members or guests as deemed appropriate


Membership Roster, 2021:

  • Susan Calhoun, Landscape Coordinator
  • Tamra Ansel, Project Manager, Design & Construction
  • James Dyer, Professor, Department of Geography
  • Emma Little, Grounds student staff
  • Ridge Cook, Grounds student staff
  • O Ryan Gassaway, Arborist
  • Abbot Stevenson, Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Sam Crowl, Associate Director of Sustainability
photo of Ohio University Tree Advisory Committee

Standard 2: Tree Care Plan

Ohio University Campus Tree Care Plan is available in PDF format.

Ohio University Campus Tree and Landscape Care Procedures

Latest Version Established October 29, 2018

The purpose of the Campus Tree and Landscape Care Procedure is to:

  1. Protect the campus canopy cover by ensuring that decisions involving the removal of all trees on campus are given proper consideration and to ensure tree replacement as a priority.
  2. Protect campus trees by mitigating the impact of development and construction with regard to campus trees as well as to promote tree health through maintenance practices that follow the International Society of Arboriculture's best management practices.
  3. Provide the Ohio University Tree Advisory Committee with the approved Ohio University Grounds Services tree care procedures on campus.

The responsibility of enacting the Campus Tree and Landscape Care Procedures rests with Ohio University's Grounds Services, a division of Ohio University Facilities Management and Safety, with financial and supervisory support from Facilities Management and Safety.

The Campus Tree and Landscape Care Plan includes detailed criteria for the following categories:

  • Sustainable Landscape Management
  • Landscape Materials Management
  • Soil Management:
  • Fertilizer and Herbicides
  • Ice-Melt/Salt application
  • Mowing
  • Watering
  • Tree Planting and Selection
  • Mulching
  • Current Architecture, Design and Construction Tree Protection Standards
  • Proposed Additional Tree Protection and Preservation Policies and Procedures
  • Activities to Avoid in the Care of Mature Trees
  • Hazard and Emergency Tree Removal
  • Managing for Catastrophic Events
  • Design Standards
  • Communication Strategy
  • Terminology

See the full version of the Tree Care Plan in PDF format.

Tree Image

Standard 3: Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures

A college campus, to be designated a Tree Campus USA, must allocate finances for its annual campus tree program. Evidence should be shown that an annual work plan has been established and expenditures dedicated towards that work plan.

It is suggested, but not mandatory, that campuses work towards an annual expenditure of $3 per full-time enrolled student. Ohio University tracks its spending in relation to tree purchased, labor, equipment, supplies for tree plants, maintenance and removal, and value of volunteer labor. 

Standard 4: Arbor Day Observance

2020 Events:

On April 22, 2020, Ohio University hosted a virtual joint Earth Day/Arbor Day Celebration. To celebrate Arbor Day, the Office of Sustainability placed boxes of free oak tree saplings at various locations on campus, throughout the City of Athens, and in Chauncey and The Plains. The boxes were available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and residents picked up about 80 of the available 100 saplings. Instructions for planting and caring for the saplings were included.

Calhoun took the approximately 20 leftover saplings and potted them in large containers so that she and her staff and can care for them until they find a permanent home.

For more information about the virtual celebrations, check out this OHIO News story.

Arbor Day

2019 Arbor Day Celebrations: 

Rufus and some lucky students had the chance to learn about goats and hold a week-old kid!

Standard Five-Service Learning Projects

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, "The Service Learning Project should be an outreach of the spirit of the Tree Campus USA initiative. This project should provide an opportunity to engage the student population with projects related to trees and can be part of a campus or community initiative."

For the third year in a row, Ohio University hosted a 'Sapling Scavenger Hunt.' Graduate and undergraduate students paired up with preschoolers and staff from the Patton College of Education Child Development Center to follow a map in search of seven different trees. The map, created by the Facilities Management GIS team, led students to trees with a variety of shapes, colors, and scents, using leaves, bark, and fruits as identifying features. The selected trees included Umbrella Magnolia, Dawn Redwood, Sweetgum, Redbud, Sycamore, Tulip Poplar, and Black Walnut.  



Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan

The Ohio University Integrated Pest Management Plan was adopted on July 16, 2019.

Grounds Equipment Management

Approximately 75% of the small equipment inventory used in the Grounds Department is battery-operated.  This equipment consists of push mowers, blowers, hedge trimmers, and weed-eaters.  The advantages of producing little to no noise or emissions on-site not only creates environmental and direct human health benefits, but also boosts productivity and efficiency by allowing essential work to be performed at any hour without class-room disruption.  Electric vehicles (ATV's) are being examined in an effort to replace diesel units. 

Bee Campus USA

In April, 2021, Ohio University's application was approved for the Bee Campus USA designation!

Bluebird Trail

Ohio University has a Bluebird Trail.  Bluebird boxes are placed in strategic locations around campus.  More information will be uploaded soon!

Naturalized Areas

a field of long grasses
Naturalized area on Ohio University's campus

Have you noticed areas like this on our campuses?  Don't worry, the groundskeepers didn't forget to mow.  Ohio University is intentionally leaving sections of campus to grow naturally to protect biodiversity and pollinator species, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from grounds equipment, and to enhance the natural beauty of our green campus.