July 30, 2020

Shawnee State University students grew more than 700 trees this spring and about 300 were given away July 27-28 as part of a National Arbor Day celebration.

Arbor Day is usually celebrated nationally in April, but alternate events were encouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since SSU was on pandemic lockdown in April, the Department of Natural Sciences arranged to give away the trees in July instead.

“Shawnee has been designated a Tree Campus USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation since 2016,” SSU Biologist Dr. Logan Minter said. “Our Department of Natural Sciences has worked since 2011 collecting data on our trees, inventorying the information and building a plan to earn that designation.”

professor standing under a tree
SSU Geologist Dr. Erik Larson examines a tree on campus featured on SSU's new mobile app. The free app provides detailed information (inset) about more than 370 trees on campus.

The university developed a Tree Campus USA plan to help the community enjoy the rich, diverse environment the southern Ohio area’s trees have to offer. As a result, in late June SSU unveiled a series of interactive maps and trails online at .

Through these maps, or a companion mobile app, anyone can locate more than 370 trees on campus, see various images and learn more about native and exotic species along the way.

“Our connection with the natural landscape is a wonderful thing to foster and this is one way to do that,” Dr. Minter said. “It allows people to connect with our campus in a different way. It allows people to visit and enjoy this natural arboretum we have on campus.”

Students on campus assist with continued inventories, special pruning activities and learning about the trees’ biology in the natural environment, as well as growing more trees. The activities are part of the required service learning component of being a Tree Campus.

In addition to a detailed map of campus showcasing all the trees, four “trails” have been created that can take participants along special walking routes to identify species within a theme. The trails include Appalachian, Around the World, Money Grows on Trees and Relics of the Past.

SSU Geologist Dr. Erik Larson assisted with the development of the online map and trails. Using a base map updated by Google, the web pages, inventory map, trails and tree information is maintained by Shawnee State.

“The health impact of being able to get out and enjoy nature is part of where the trails come from,” Dr. Larson said. “It’s an opportunity for people to learn about the environment that’s around them as well.”

“A lot has been written about the connections between nature and physical and mental well-being,” Dr. Minter said. “We discussed this spring, with the issues of the pandemic, how this can be an outdoor activity that is relatively safe, that people can safely participate in with members of their household and at safe distances.”

To maintain the Tree Campus status, SSU must carry out a plan with objectives for elevating awareness of and appreciation for trees. The plan is updated and reviewed every five years.

The project is supported by a grant from the Scioto Foundation. To help achieve the designation, SSU partnered with several community organizations, including the City of Portsmouth, Friends of Greenlawn Cemetery, Shade Tree Commission of Portsmouth, Portsmouth Connex, the Ohio State University: Scioto County Extension, and volunteers including David Riepenhoff and Ralph Wisniewski.