Loss of a tree, gain of an engineering facility

Jason Hersey and Alan Fearns/Sun Star Reporter
May 7, 2013

The choke cherry tree before it was cut down. Photo provided by JR Ancheta.

The choke cherry tree before it was cut down. Photo provided by JR Ancheta

At the groundbreaking site of the new UAF Engineering facility between the Duckering and Bunnell Buildings, lies the remnants of a chopped down choke cherry tree. The site served as a reminder of the tree Friday morning, as students and faculty scurried between work or classes.

Students and faculty lamented the loss of the tree though, many were sympathetic that with construction these things happen.

“The loss of the tree is a sad thing, because that tree has been there for many, many years,” said Laura Letuligasenoa, a telephone technician for OIT.

Many interviewed, like Computer Science student Chris Houck, were uncertain to why the tree had to be cleared. The position of the severed roots appeared not to lie within the boundaries of the proposed building.

“Why man, why cut it down,” asked Houck.

According to Facilities Services Contract Manager Scott Hulac, the tree needed to be removed because it encroached on the area of the foundation digging.

Petroleum engineering student Casey Hnilicka, said he saw an excavator parked at the spot where the tree had been days earlier digging for the foundation.

“They probably could’ve replanted it or something like that,” Hnilicka said.

Transplanting the tree was often mentioned by students and faculty as to a possible alternative to cutting it down.

The site where the tree was will be transformed over the summer, and building construction will begin during the daytime as soon as finals are over.

The new facility’s lobby will connect it with the Southwest Duckering entrance and the Bunnell building’s entrance where the Schaible Auditorium is located. No other inter-building connections will be made with the Bunnell building, but the construction plans show that first floor Duckering will be able to access the proposed high bay experiment testing area of the new facility.

The construction of the facility will be broken into two phases. The first phase, which is scheduled for completion by Jan. 1, 2014, would complete the outer shell of the building, enclosed and insulated. The second phase of construction focuses on the interior projects, such as flooring, classrooms and furnishings. The second phase would also include exterior landscaping. Current funding covers the expenses of the first phase of construction, Hulac said. The rest of the funding remains in question.

Engineering classrooms will be built on top of Bunnell’s Schaible Auditorium as part of the new building. The main entrance and fire exit locations will be changed in the auditorium. Offices and classrooms on the East side of Bunnell will look across an open air corridor to the new building.

Pedestrian access from Tanana Loop Road will go through the new building along the proposed high bay experiment area. The testing area will be a large open glassed room where engineering experiments can be viewed from along the corridor that goes through the building.

The new facility will connect to Duckering and stretch across what used to be the Southeast Bunnell parking lot, which had 51 mostly gold parking spaces.

According to Scott Bell, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services, Tanana Loop closure will extend from West Bunnell to East Duckering for the next two years, which is the duration of the proposed project.

The engineering facility project with a total cost of $108.5 million is aimed at the “expansion of undergraduate degree production,” according to a funding request to the 2012 state legislature.

Expanding education resonated in the words of Stacey Garbett when asked about the loss of the cherry tree.

“For eduction it’s worth it, I mean, we can plant another one once the building’s back up,” Garbett said.

Letuligasenoa took it a step further saying, “I’m hoping that when they finally get everything back together that we have three trees here.”

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