Some UK students are up in arms, after construction crews were seen cutting down several trees near the Kirwan-Blanding complex Wednesday afternoon.
Kirwan and Blanding towers and the surrounding low-rise buildings have been unoccupied for years, pending demolition approval.
In December of 2019, UK announced they would move forward with the demolition of the Kirwan-Blanding complex in early 2020, in hopes of creating new "greenspace," and potentially, a new residence hall.
UK was said to have preserved the trees in this space while it requested an internal loan of $5 million to create the green space.
In a blog post on Dec. 9, Vice President of Finance and Administration Eric Monday said UK would seek to “preserve the allée of trees that makes that area of campus so distinct.”
The proposed transformation of the Kirwan-Blanding site was lauded to be a "win for everyone," at the time of UK's announcement.
University of Kentucky spokesperson Jay Blanton said the university had committed to preserving the tree-lined walkway in front of the Kirwan/Blanding area.
"The University is steadfastly honoring that commitment. Indeed, we will be adding trees to this area. Our goal, moreover, is to enhance and add greenspace that will become a central gathering point for students and our campus community. There are approximately 10,000 trees on campus, not including the arboretum that we manage for the state on the edge of campus. In fact, we are continually planting trees on the campus. However, as we begin to clear space for a new residence hall, and prepare for re-landscaping the area to enhance greenspace, we have, unfortunately, had to cut down trees in the area," said Blanton.
But some don't see UK's most recent actions as a "win."
Claire Hilbrecht, a natural resources and environmental science major, said the university has failed in its commitments to urban tree health.
"It has prioritized quick and cheap development practices over ecological considerations of which we have a deep understanding- both through our arborist team and through our various environmental science programs," said Hilbrecht. "Given our knowledge of best management practices, it is inexcusable that UK administrators would make the call to neglect that knowledge and proceed with the destruction of 231 of our trees in the spirit of development."
The Kernel has been unable to independently verify the number of trees removed from the Kirwin-Blanding site.
Hilbrecht and other students plan to hold a "tree funeral" slated for Friday afternoon, which is intended to show student concern over the tree removal. Students say because of the trees' abrupt removal, they could not organize prior to removal.
"UK administrators must begin taking student voices into account in decisions like these, as well as quit neglecting the knowledge that this institution was built to uphold when implementing campus development projects," said Hilbrecht.
Blanton said that the university does place an importance on greenspace.
"It should be noted, though, that when we do have to take this action, we are able to harvest the wood to mill for future projects. These are tough decisions and issues. And if you review over the years, we have taken great strides to not only preserve trees where and when possible, but also to plant more trees and add greenspace to our campus," said Blanton.
The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday at the towers facing the 90.