UCSC's tradition of stewardship

The UC Santa Cruz commitment to stewardship of its extraordinary campus dates to before the first modern buildings were constructed on the historic Cowell Ranch.

In more than four decades since its founding in 1965, UC Santa Cruz grounds services crews have maintained forests, grasslands, gullies and ridges with the care befitting the unique, world-class location. Everywhere you look you'll see the careful balance between the natural environment and buildings.

Of the 2,000 acres on campus, fewer than 600 are developed. There forests and open spaces surround buildings.

Approximately 15,000 trees are maintained within the core campus area. The care of these trees is managed by the UCSC Grounds Department tree crew, which consists of a board certified master arborist and three trimmers. While forests and grasslands are largely maintained in their natural state, maintenance is performed for safety, including the trimming or thinning of deadwood or precarious trees and mowing of meadow perimeters to alleviate fire risk.

Top priority areas for maintenance are the campus core and college and housing areas, followed by pathways, parking lots and roads. Careful records are kept of tree removal. Since 1998, grounds crews have removed 134 trees. They planted 175 in the same period.

For instance, grounds staff removed a rotting madrone at Porter College a year ago, replacing it with three oak trees. Seven redwoods were planted in the Chinquapin Bowl below College 9 Namaste Lounge.

Founding Chancellor Dean McHenry decreed in the early development of the campus that no tree larger than 12 inches in diameter could be removed without his approval. That tradition continues today. Any removal of a tree with a trunk 12 inches wide or more requires the explicit approval of a principal officer.

When trees are removed for maintenance or new facilities, the wood usually remains on campus where it is chipped and used for landscaping and erosion control. Often larger pieces are recycled into benches or other site furnishing amenities. Note the massive benches at College 9 and outside the new Humanities Building.

Occasionally, innovative restoration efforts are accomplished. Redwood stumps, removed for the construction of the Engineering 2 building, were "replanted" along Spring Road, just north of Colleges 9 and 10. Today, new saplings have sprouted and are thriving, continuing the cycle of life and helping erosion control efforts along the fire road.

Fallen trees or those removed for safety or construction are sometimes used in other locations for stream-bank restoration or fish habitat. In a cooperative effort with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, California Department of Fish and Game, and Big Creek Lumber, 40-foot redwood logs with root balls still attached were trucked to the banks of the Carmel River to be used in a habitat restoration project.

The trees were placed along 400 feet of the riverbank to create fish habitat for sensitive aquatic species such as steelhead, California red-legged frogs and western pond turtles. In 2005, more redwoods were donated to the restoration project.

Careful and deliberate stewardship of the magnificent UC Santa Cruz campus for more than four decades has ensured that the natural environment is maintained alongside world-class facilities for teaching and research.

More information on UCSC's tradition of stewardship may be found at