Vigil held to share concerns over removal of oak trees from MU’s Francis Quadrangle

COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)

A Thursday morning vigil hopes to draw attention to the removal of more than a dozen pine oaks from the University of Missouri campus. Organizers began the vigil for the trees Thursday morning at the Francis Quadrangle.

“Today we watched with heavy hearts as the University of Missouri began felling the majestic rose oaks on the historic quadrangle,” said co-organizer Laurie Wren. “The planned clear-cutting of 15 70-year-old oak trees contradicts MU’s mission statement that ‘we are stewards and builders of an invaluable state resource.’

MU began the planned removal of 15 pin oak trees on Wednesday. The school says that after reviewing with experts, the trees have reached the end of their life and are now a safety hazard to the campus community.

Jeff Stack, the other organizer, and Wren were the only two people who showed up for the wake. However, these two said they felt like they were speaking on behalf of those who, in spirit, did not want all 15 trees cut down at once.

MU has shared its plans to replace the trees with what are called ‘Legacy Oaks’ over the summer in a May 9 press release. Legacy Oaks are white oaks donated by elders and grown at MU’s Southern Farm, according to the university.

“For more than 70 years, the pine oaks have stood guard and provided a beautiful backdrop for the columns and historic buildings here,” said MU Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Micahel Graves. “However, these noble trees have reached the end of their natural lifespan and pose a potential safety hazard to pedestrians and buildings. Their replacement is critical to the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

New Legacy Oak trees are expected to have a lifespan of approximately 200 years.

Vigil organizers want Mizzou to replace one to two trees each year for the next decade instead of removing all 15 at once. Protesters believe their recommendation would create less disruption to wildlife.

“You know, when the students come back in the fall and they don’t have a source of shade here in the quadrangle, what will that do to them? I mean, I think it will increase the stress level for them, you know that can make it a much more difficult place psychologically for people,” said Vigil organizer Jeff Stack.

MU said it is evaluating the wood as it goes to see what the school can save. However, the university says it has been told that oak is not conducive to building in the commercial industry.

MU says it expects it will take a few weeks to remove all the trees, but that will depend on the weather.

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