UCI Sustainable Landscape Program
Tree and Landscape Management Updates
May 4, 2021
Eucalyptus trees recommended for removal will be removed beginning the week of May 10, 2021. Work will occur in Aldrich Park and the Campus Core. Questions? Please email Richard Demerjian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 26, 2021
UCI manages a campuswide urban forest of approximately 30,000 trees, which provide significant value to the campus community. In 1996, the UCI Green and Gold Plan was adopted as part of the campus sustainable landscape program. The plan outlines goals and objectives for UCI’s urban forest including increased species and age diversity to improve the long-term health of our forest. The plan encourages replacement of Eucalyptus trees, the dominant species planted during the first two decades of campus development, with native California trees that provide ecological and environmental value.
As part of UCI’s ongoing urban forest management, the campus conducts assessments of Eucalyptus and other species to identify trees that may be in declining health or that may otherwise pose a hazard. Recent assessments have identified certain Eucalyptus trees that will require removal.
All tree removals and pruning will occur under the guidance of qualified biologists to ensure any nesting birds are not disturbed during these activities. Consistent with the goals of the Green and Gold Plan, the campus will implement a restoration program that emphasizes planting long-lived native trees, selected in consultation with campus biologists, and other shade trees. Our ongoing goal is to increase the diversity and long-term health of UCI’s urban forest while providing increased habitat value.
Tree Waste Placement
Urban wood is the use of material from urban forests, such as wood from removed urban trees and trimmings. UCI is working with West Coast Arborists, Inc (WCA) on current tree management activities to ensure the only wood being sent to landfills is that which is unusable for products in the landscape, is infested with invasive pest species, or is in some way under a quarantine order.
WCA strives to recycle as much green waste material as possible into useable, carbon sequestering products as possible, which results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Co-environmental benefits of urban wood recycling include sourcing local raw materials, supporting a local workforce, and creating greater community value products.
UCI Green and Gold Plan
Landscape features can provide the most memorable visual image of a campus and represent a significant physical asset. Recognizing the importance of this resource to UCI, in 1995 former Chancellor Laurel Wilkening directed a critical review of campus landscape planning, implementation, and management objectives. The resulting "Green and Gold Plan" identifies ways to better manage existing campus landscape assets and provides direction for future development of landscaping that is environmentally suitable, more sustainable given natural and financial resource constraints, and that better addresses campus planning and design objectives.
Initial Campus Development
The original site designated for the campus on the Irvine Ranch was devoid of any significant trees and consisted of rolling hills covered in naturalized and native grasses with pockets of Coastal Sage Scrub. To achieve a campus presence and human scale in the early phases of development, while retaining the natural features and character of the site, UCI's initial landscape planning focused on establishing an urban forest. Some of the basic concepts in the landscape architectural supplement of UCI's 1963 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) included the following:
- The natural character and beauty of the rolling hills and the magnificent views should be maintained and selectively enhanced.
- Existing canyons and drainage ways should be used to form greenbelts and windbreaks, and to tie the Central Campus to the outlying areas of the University community.
- The landscape character of the academic quads should be more formal and urban, in contrast to the more informal areas between them (open space corridors, buffers and central park).
- The campus should be landscaped as an "arboretum," utilizing an extensive plant palette that is developed to include a wide variety of species, both exotics and native, that are environmentally suitable to the site conditions.
Most development over UCI's first 25 years focused on the Central Campus which has the character of a heavily forested park with well over 10,000 trees (estimated value over $12 million) in the central academic core. There are 15,000 to 20,000 trees over the entire campus. Today, the community's most memorable visual image of UCI is that of a forest of mature Eucalyptus Grandis trees. Well over 100 feet in height, they dominate the central academic core as well as views to the Central Campus. While some of the site's natural features have been retained, significant grading has occurred to provide for campus development and a large amount of exotic landscaping has been established with high water and maintenance demands. In addition, some open space corridors have been compromised to meet other development requirements.
The 1989 LRDP and LRDP EIR, as well as their implementing documents (such as the Campus Design Framework and Guidelines), build on this original landscape theme and advocate additional concepts which include:
- Emphasis on the use of native and drought tolerant species, particularly in outer campus areas.
- Development of open space corridors as habitat linkages as well as open space amenities for the campus.
- Continued use of landscape buffers at the campus perimeter and to physically separate land uses.
- Theme planting palettes specific to each academic quad in order to achieve individual place identity.
- A more comprehensive treatment of outdoor spaces including hardscape, street furnishings, and plant materials to achieve a unified urban design.
Development since 1989 has involved increased implementation of drought tolerant and native landscaping and initial efforts to develop campus arroyos as native plant habitat corridors. During UCI's rapid development in the late 1980's, however, compromises and inconsistencies related to planning objectives occurred. Recent resource constraints have highlighted the need for landscaping with lower water and maintenance requirements.
It is important to re-focus the management of UCI's existing urban forest and to improve the planning and implementation process for future development more consistently with current campus values, objectives, and priorities. The first phases of UCI's landscape development are reaching maturity and will require a sound management strategy for the long-term viability of this significant campus and regional asset. The outer campus areas remain largely undeveloped and require careful planning to ensure proper development. These conditions provide an excellent opportunity for a young campus to consider new, innovative approaches to the development and management of campus landscaping. The results will affect the overall visual image of the UCI campus for many years to come. Future managers and developers of the campus landscape must ensure that optimum resource values and functional design objectives are achieved as part of the campus' investment in the management and implementation of open space and landscape resources. Four planning and management goals with supporting objectives have been established:
Goal 1. Develop a landscape that is sustainable and provides for long term conservation of resources: energy, water, labor, and reduced production of green waste.
- Water Conservation—Utilize plant materials, design and planting techniques, and irrigation systems that minimize water usage.
- Plant Suitability—Use native and other environmentally suitable plant materials.
- Species and Age Diversity—Ensure both diversity of species and diversity of age in the urban forest. Trees of the same size and age tend to decline and die during the same period causing costly planning and maintenance problems and necessitating long periods of re-growth.
- De-Intensification of Eucalyptus Trees—Remove existing eucalyptus trees due to hazards or decline and replace with native and drought tolerant species which will introduce age diversity in the central campus.
Goal 2. Develop campus landscaping and open space networks that maximize local and regional natural resource values.
- Habitat Value—Utilize native plant materials that provide high wildlife foraging value.
- Habitat and Open Space Linkages—Develop habitat corridors utilizing UCI's historic drainage ways, or arroyos, that connect the campus with regional open space areas such as the San Joaquin Hills and the wetland areas of the Upper Newport Bay, San Joaquin Freshwater Marsh, and San Diego Creek. Protect existing habitat resources. Restore, as networks of corridors and habitat sites, the isolated patches and discontinuous landscape corridors that were created under the original LRDP development. This will benefit the campus and also support regional habitat planning goals.
- Preservation—Preserve natural features and environmentally significant areas. Retain the character of campus topography, ridge lines, view sheds, and vistas. Preserve historic landscape.
Goal 3. Develop landscaping that provides the greatest functional value consistent with comprehensive campus planning and design objectives.
- Maximize Functionality—Multiple functions, beyond aesthetic considerations, must be provided: define spaces, provide solar shading, define circulation elements, provide visual screening, reduce scale of monumental campus buildings, create public open spaces, and provide recreational amenities.
- Design Consistency—Implement campus landscape that is consistent with, and supports, campus planning and design objectives to provide a unifying framework, place identity, and human scale to the campus.
- Institutional Quality—Utilize plant materials, hardscape, and street furniture of institutional quality (i.e., long-lived, pest resistant, and durable).
Goal 4. While selection of appropriate plant materials and proper planting and irrigation techniques are crucial first steps in developing sustainable landscaping, it is equally important that adequate management programs are in place to preserve this asset.
- Pruning—Prune to remove hazards and to improve vigor and aesthetics.
- Fertilization—Environmentally responsible nutrient management to maintain plant health and reduce susceptibility to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses.
- Inspection—Scheduled inspections for overall health, safety, and appearance.
- Removal and Replacement—Even with good tree management, all trees will ultimately decline and require replacement. When removals are required, they are evaluated within these criteria: 1) dead or dying trees; 2) trees that pose a hazard to people or may cause significant damage to buildings, property, or hardscape; and 3) trees growing in undesirable locations.
- Protection—Control disease and pests through an integrated and environmentally responsible pest management program. Protect from physical hazards.
- Green Waste—To minimize waste and meet solid waste regulatory requirements, all trimmings should be processed into mulch and used to control weeds, control erosion, retain soil moisture, and provide nutrients.
- Habitat Areas—While habitat areas will generally require far less ongoing maintenance than more urban landscape areas, special management is required for protection of habitat value and for teaching and research activities in these areas.
Throughout the campus, landscaping will be implemented in various ways. Since the availability of funding is limited and is likely to remain so, it is critical that all landscape development be closely managed. UCI must provide an advocacy role and take advantage of every opportunity to actively pursue tree grant programs, volunteer tree planting efforts, fund raising, and other support to implement the campus landscape program. Implementation opportunities include the following: Landscape elements of individual capital projects. These projects undergo review by campus staff for conformance with campus design guidelines and standards. Examples include:
- Arroyo Vista Housing—native and drought tolerant planting
- California Avenue—native and drought tolerant planting
Mitigation measures and other conditions placed on campus related projects. Examples include:
- West Campus Habitat Corridor
- University Hills Riparian Corridor
- East Campus Riparian Corridor
Participation in regional open space and landscaping programs. Examples include:
- Irvine Ranch Water District "Operation Outreach" native planting and irrigation retrofit projects, such as the California Avenue Habitat Corridor
Grant, gift and volunteer programs. Examples include:
- State Urban Forestry Native Tree Grant Program
- Berkeley Avenue Native Tree Planting
- State Highway Landscape Grant Program
- Small/Minority Business Landscape Grant Program
- University Drive Slope Habitat Planting
- University Hills Community Park
Ongoing grounds maintenance operations. Examples include:
- Ongoing tree management program:
- Central campus eucalyptus tree removal and pruning program
- Bridge Road tree removals
- Campus Village eucalyptus tree removals
(Note: All tree removals are reviewed by the Director of Campus & Environmental Planning, a licensed landscape architect, and are to be accompanied by replanting of appropriate trees to achieve replacement and age diversity.)
- Irrigation Water Management Program
- Integrated Biological Pesticide Management Plan
- Green Waste Recycling Program