As part of the Moody Center construction south of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, 86 trees were transplanted, repurposed or removed, said Jim Shackelford, director of Capital Planning and Construction.
The Moody Foundation granted the University $130 million in November 2019 to construct the Moody Center, a new basketball arena. The center, expected to be completed in 2022, will host entertainment events and graduation ceremonies along with basketball games.
When the University begins a new construction project, the Office of Capital Planning and Construction, Landscape Services, and a group of internal and external consultants evaluate the trees on-site to determine whether they are viable for transplant, Shackelford said. Once they determine which trees can be relocated, he said they work with a design firm and contractor to start moving the trees.
Sixteen of the 86 trees were classified as large heritage trees, which have a diameter of 26-34 inches, Shackelford said. Seven to 10 of those trees have been identified for repurposing, he said.
“In the past, at the Dell Medical School, for instance, we repurposed a number of the trees there, and it became the finished materials for the reception desks at each of the three Dell Medical School buildings,” Shackelford said.
Trees that are not repurposed or transplanted are mulched and used for landscaping around the arena or elsewhere at the University, Shackelford said. None of the material goes into a landfill, he said.
Part of the construction project involves planting 100 new trees to replace the 86 trees that were removed, Shackelford said.
“There will actually be more trees on campus at the end of this project than when we started,” Shackelford said.
Shackelford said the Office of Capital Planning and Construction follows a protocol to protect the remaining trees from damage during construction. These protocols include placing fences around the perimeter of the trees or strapping lumber around the trunk of trees to protect them from construction damage, he said.
“There’s always a possibility of an accident, but we take every precaution reasonably possible to ensure that trees are not damaged during the course of construction,” Shackelford said.
Due to construction, six heritage-size live oak trees were transplanted to other areas of campus, Shackelford said.
“The most successful tree transplants that we’ve had on this campus involve live oaks,” Shackelford said.
Live oaks are viable for transplant due to their root structure, while pecan and cottonwood trees are less viable for transplant, Shackelford said.
Advertising junior Brianna Gonzalez said if she saw people tearing down trees on campus, she would be surprised but would assume they were being removed for good reason.
“I think it’s not really much of an inconvenience on campus,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said she doesn’t expect the University to inform students when trees are being removed, so if she was curious, she would ask a University official.
Public relations junior Adrianne Garza said it is important to tell people why trees are being torn down on campus.