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Declining Iconic Trees Removed from Campus for Safety Reasons

June 17, 2021

The two white firs that grew to tower above the historic Trianon became iconic, welcoming students, families, and visitors to campus for more than four decades. One might say they even reminded us to stand tall and set high goals.

The changing landscape encourages us not to take for granted the beauty found in nature or its vulnerability. While our front entrance may look different upon your return to campus, our mission of preparing students for a dynamic world endures.

The white firs, a graduation gift from the Class of 1977, had declined so severely over the years they had to be removed this week for safety reasons.

“They were old and not as resilient. The trees had back-to-back hail storms that really beat them up over the last few years. White firs tend to decay a little more easily. It’s a safety concern, especially at the front entry,” said Becky Wegner, an arborist with Mountain High SaveATree. “Firs are really a little more like cool canyon trees. With the summer heat and being around for a long time, they gradually declined.”

Planted by Gernot Heinrichsdorff, a landscape architect and spouse of a founding faculty member, Ava Heinrichsdorff, the firs grew with the school. Generations of students admired their stature and beauty. One measured about 70 feet tall, while the other was about 85 feet tall.

More than a year was focused on trying to prolong the life of the firs through deep-root watering and fertilization treatments, said Mike Zaccagnino, facilities director for The Colorado Springs School.

“There’s not one person here who wanted the trees gone, but they were getting dangerous,” he said. “Everyone is upset they had to be removed.”

Head of School Tambi Tyler recalled a quote from American author Hal Borland: “No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn.”

“I was hopeful that we would be able to keep the trees alive through the treatments,” Ms. Tyler said. “Although our Trianon trees are gone, it is truly awe-inspiring to see the landscape of the Trianon’s uninhibited view.”

As is the case when caring for a historic 28-acre campus, trees are injured or decline over time but often receive a new lease on life when a tree stump is repurposed as seating for an outdoor classroom or even when wood chips are used as fresh ground covering on the playground. The school is seeking to partner with an artist to carve a bear mascot into another tree struck by lightning earlier this year on the quad. In addition, new trees are planted throughout campus each year as we work thoughtfully to be environmental stewards.

In preparing this tribute for the firs, we asked several students and members of our community to reflect on literature with trees at the forefront. Please enjoy these recommended titles that share life-giving lessons, moments of gratitude, and admiration for trees. Maybe you will be inspired to write a story about the trees at The Colorado Springs School.

When Great Trees Fall, Maya Angelou
Tree at My Window, Robert Frost
The Sound of Trees, Robert Frost
Trees and Other Poems, Joyce Kilmer
The Way through the Woods, Rudyard Kipling
When I am Among the Trees, Mary Oliver
To An Old Tree, Annette Wynne

Children’s Books
As An Oak Tree Grows, G. Brian Karas
The Magic Treehouse series, Mary Pope Osborne
The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
Miss Maple’s Seeds, Eliza Wheeler
Our Tree Named Steve, Alan Zweibel

The Overstory, Richard Powers