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Picture of trees on campus.

Arbor Day Foundation recognizes OSU as ‘Tree Campus’ for 10th straight year

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Editorial Coordinator | 405-744-5540 |

For the 10th straight year, Oklahoma State University has earned the “Tree Campus” designation from the Arbor Day Foundation. 

University Arborist Caitlin Gipson, who works with the landscaping department to maintain roughly 870 acres across the Stillwater campus, said receiving the award for a decade straight demonstrates her department’s commitment to protecting the campus forest environment and all that it brings to OSU. 

To her and her team, the trees are their legacy, and that legacy continues to grow. She said the Stillwater campus currently has 3,976 trees and might surpass the 4,000 mark later this year. 

“Why are trees so important to a university campus? Trees are important for several reasons. Structurally, trees tend to be the ‘backbone’ of the landscape,” Gipson said. “Trees also provide many ecological functions, such as catching storm water runoff, carbon sequestration and providing habitat for desirable fauna; such as song birds which people enjoy greatly. 

“Also, trees make very positive impressions on our minds. Countless people have walked our campus, enjoying the park-like views. Can you imagine if Theta Pond, Legacy Walk or the Old Central Lawns had no trees? Arguably, the spaces would be a lot less scenic and enjoyable. When visitors, alumni and current students stroll through campus, whether they consciously think about it or not, they are enjoying the trees and will remember them for years to come.”

In celebration of Arbor Day in March, OSU launched the Tree Tribute program, which allows donors to dedicate trees on campus and provide for their upkeep and care. 

“This funding method enables donors to contribute to the overall campus forest health,” Gipson said. “With these donations, the landscape department is better able to maintain our existing mature forest, as well as plant new trees. Many people don’t realize just how much effort goes into establishing a tree.”

Arbor Day celebrations also included the traditional tree planting and the dedication of a new art installation east of Theta Pond. Gipson said these efforts are meaningful additions to OSU’s arboreal vision, particularly after severe ice storms last fall wreaked havoc on campus. Gipson said the Stillwater campus has lost 55 trees as a direct result of the ice storms in late October 2020. 

“Currently, we have addressed about 80 percent of the damaged trees and intend to complete our pruning efforts in the next few months,” she said. “However, we will not see the entire scope of the storm's effect on our campus forest for many years to come. The storm left many trees injured and stressed, which leaves them more vulnerable to pathogens and other stressors. Additional trees may be lost in the future due to compacting issues and residual effects from the storm. Rest assured that the campus forest is being closely monitored for such issues. Despite all the damage that was done, we realize it could have been worse.”

For his part, Director of Landscape Services Steve Dobbs couldn’t be happier. Like Gipson, he said the most recent nod from the Arbor Day Foundation reflects the hard work and dedication of staff. 

“It just shows Oklahoma State’s commitment to tree planting and tree preservation in the urban forest,” Dobbs said. “To meet those criteria, it’s quite a process … the end result is students, staff and faculty enjoy the benefits of trees on campus, especially in the hot summers.”

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