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It is rare for some students to take a break in the Oak Grove, empty their minds of all the commotion around them, look around at the different kinds of trees and admire the red, yellow and orange leaves that plummet toward the ground.
The Allegheny Arboretum is an organization that, instead of being funded by the university, receives most of its money through donations and contributions from the public.
The founder, director and chairman of the Arboretum, Jerry Pickering, and other board members take a lot of
time to create this natural, visually pleasant environment.
“The primary goal of the Arboretum is education,” Pickering said. “We want to educate people about the trees and their diversities and also beautification.
“When we talk to alumni and ask them, ‘Well, what do you remember about IUP?’ They answer: ‘The Oak Grove.’”
Despite all of the hard work that Pickering and the Arboretum board do, construction on campus is inevitable, and the trees suffer for it.
In the span of one year, more than 100 trees have been knocked down due to the construction of the new dormitories. Seven or eight trees were removed due to diseases caused by insects, fungi and wind storms.
Pickering works with Steven Loar, director of the Center for Turning and Furniture Design and member of the Arboretum board, to ensure that the trees don’t go to waste.
In this program the leftover wood is used in the art department curriculum or for an in-house program called Center Works.
Once a tree is cut down, Loar takes as much as is usable to a cutting area located behind the Robertshaw building, where he and coworker B.A. Harrington put the wood to use as part of their Harvest to Use program.
Loar, Pickering and Harrington are also involved in several other projects on campus. Examples include the benches that were done for the Performing Arts Center and the decorative wall for Stouffer Hall’s Science Discovery Center.
Loar enjoys working with the Arboretum because “they are really committed to a very long-term vision of keeping the campus beautiful.”