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"The Pond" to Get a Face-lift

- Some Willow Trees Around Hawkins Pond Removed Due to Rot; New Landscaping Plans to Come -PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Feb. 18, 2009) - The Hawkins Pond is an iconic fixture on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus, known for its fountain and a ring of low-hanging weeping willow trees. Members of the campus and local communities visit this area often to relax, study, have lunch or watch ducks navigate the pond's waters.

A view of some of the willow trees around the pond prior to the removal of four dead trees.

This week, that scenery changed as four of the willow trees were removed for safety reasons.

"The trees have significant rotting, and we are concerned with high winds in the forecast later this week," said Kevin Roberts, director of facilities. "We took down one tree initially and found it was rotted out from the core to within an inch of the bark. We had to quickly address the hazard they posed to nearby buildings as well as students, faculty and staff."

Willows are known for their soft wood. They grow fast but are less sturdy and often have shorter life spans than other tree varieties.

Damage from the 1998 ice storm allowed decay to settle into these trees. That decay weakened the branches to such an extent that, ultimately, all will need to be removed.

This is not the first time the landscape around the pond has changed significantly. The pond, itself, has been part of the campus since the college's founding in 1889. Elm trees used to surround it until Dutch Elm Disease claimed them in the 1960s. The willow trees were chosen as a replacement because they are fast growing.

The area will be landscaped again, but that will take some time and a great deal of planning.

"Because the college recognizes the importance of this area and the enjoyment that it provides to so many, careful plans are being developed to address how the area will be landscaped in the future," said Linda Sichel, capital program manager at SUNY Plattsburgh.

A view of some of the willow trees around the pond prior to the removal of four dead trees.

A series of major construction projects occurring over the next four years will also impact the pond area. Starting this spring, a major expansion of Hudson Hall will begin with the addition of a large laboratory facility. At the same time, Ward Hall, on the west side of the pond, will be renovated. And finally, a total rehabilitation of the existing Hudson Hall will update the original building and connect it to the new addition.

"Construction is hard on landscape," said Sichel.

Sichel will be part of a committee that is now being formed to consider the future landscaping, which will take place once construction is complete. Though no decision has been made, one idea being discussed is a landscaping "theme" that incorporates elements of the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.

"It's sad to see the willows go," said SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling. "But we're confident that by using this experience as an educational opportunity and involving many people in the discussion, we will ultimately restore the area as a central part of our campus landscape."

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