Planting and planning: Campus Tree Committee supports Tree Campus USA® recognition

SUNY New Paltz has again received Tree Campus USA designation, a prestigious, third-party recognition of the work of students, faculty and Facilities Maintenance & Operations staff to plant, protect and learn from the diverse array of trees on our campus.

The honor comes as a collective of students, faculty and staff are putting finishing touches on a Campus Tree Walk, an educational resource that consists of two marked trails and accompanying brochure that serves as a guide to tree species and their benefits.

“We are lucky to have a scenic campus with some large, legacy trees as well as remnant forest,” said Eric Keeling, associate professor of biology. “The trees on campus, such as oaks, maples and pines, support a multitude of species and also remind us to get out and explore the local forests near campus.”

Keeling is a core member of the Campus Tree Committee, a collective of students, faculty and staff with membership representing the Biology Department, the Office of Campus Sustainability, Facilities Maintenance & Operations and other campus units.

In 2015, Keeling partnered with fellow biology faculty and Campus Tree Committee member Carol Rietsma, as well as then-student Dakota Snyder ’15 (Biology), to catalog each of the 2,514 trees that lived on campus at that time.

More recently, the Campus Tree Committee has devoted its efforts to the Campus Tree Walk. It’s designed to allow campus residents and visitors to learn how to identify trees as they are guided along the trails. The route and printed map were initially designed by student committee members Ryan Usai ’20 (Biology) and William Reilly ’20 (Geography). Funds for the project were provided by the Office of Campus Sustainability.

“The Tree Walk is great way to learn about trees, to relax and enjoy our beautiful campus and get a little fresh air and exercise,” said Keeling. “It highlights 25 tree species of special interest to the campus community.”

The College’s Grounds Department made new contributions to this year’s Tree Campus USA recognition as well. Staff have been hard at work planting new trees all over campus, including five Heritage River Birch trees near Coykendall Science Building, four Red-Bud Ruby Falls trees outside of Resnick, and four Spruce trees at the south end of the Route 28 Lot. This work directly supports the Arbor Day Foundation’s Time for Trees initiative — an unprecedented effort to plant 100 million trees in forests and communities and inspire five million tree planters by 2022.

SUNY New Paltz first joined the select group of U.S. colleges and universities that have met Tree Campus USA standards in 2017. More information about the program is available at