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Mills says goodbye to eucalyptus trees

Michelle Ma

Mills will replace the blue gum eucalyptus trees on campus with a similar species, disappointing those who consider the trees a campus tradition while catering to concerns about safety.

On April 5, President Holmgren announced that the blue gums along Kapiolani Road would be replaced with the Sydney eucalyptuses at the end of May and early June.

According to Karen Maggio, assistant vice president of business affairs, Mills first considered the substitution a year ago after eucalyptus branches hit two cars parked on Kapiolani Road.

“Kapiolani is a busy street with many people walking around. Cars can get replaced, people can’t,” said Maggio.

Maggio said that in the last five years, a total of five cars have been damaged by very large branches falling from the eucalyptuses. Two of the cars belonged to residential students, two belonged to Board of Trustee members, and one staff car was also damaged.

“One student car was completely totaled [and in] October, a very large branch came through the front windshield of a trustee’s car,” said Maggio.

Some members of the Mills community are disappointed with the President’s recent decision.

“I am outraged. Not only are the eucalyptus trees beautiful, they help to provide a sense of peace on campus,” said Chaitanya Bolte, a freshwoman. “I believe that they represent Mills, in a way,” she added.

Some faculty members were disappointed about the decision for the trees’ replacement. Stephen Ratcliffe, an English professor, sent out an e-mail on April 11 to the entire Mills community in response to the President’s e-mail.

“[W]hy are we taking down these beautiful hundred-year-old trees? At what cost? Why not some kind of community meeting to explain the issue and get response before such a decision is … made?”

Others see the replacement as a positive change. They argue that the trees break the sidewalks, making it hard for disabled students to navigate.

Leila Abu-Saba, a master of fine arts student, has a mildly handicapped son who is not able to use the pathway.

“He always stumbles. I wouldn’t sue – we just walk on the other side of the street – but the walk is indeed treacherous,” said Abu-Saba. “Those trees are overgrown weeds.”

Some members of the Mills community say that they dislike the trees because eucalyptuses are not native to California and are considered harmful to people and the environment.

Robert Santos, an archivist and librarian for California State University, wrote a paper entitled “The Eucalyptus of California: Seeds of Good? Or Seeds of Evil?”

He stated that the blue gums promote fire with their combustible oil and long bark. They do not burn; the blue gum eucalyptuses explode when on fire, shooting firebrands and seeds in all directions.

Paul Richards, the director of facilities, who is responsible for maintaining the trees, is relieved about the replacement.
“We have spent thousands of dollars trimming to prevent damages,” said Richards. “This used to be a minor problem because of less people, but now there are so many people.”

According to Maggio and the President’s e-mail, Sydney eucalyptuses will keep Mills tradition and are not as dangerous as the blue gums. They are not as tall as the blue gums, and the branching system is significantly less heavy.

The removed trees will be milled and recycled into useful materials that can be used on campus, such as flooring, benches, and even the arbor that is going up in front of the science building.

Keeping tradition was important to the administration.

“We hope to do what Cyrus [Mills] did by growing the trees by seed and nurturing them for a year before being planted,” said Maggio. “We would love student involvement in the raising of the trees. We will need as many hands as possible.”