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Ayres Hall seen through the trees of Circle Park. Photo by Tom Schirtz.
Ayres Hall seen through the trees of Circle Park. Photo by Tom Schirtz.

Last month, for the first time ever, UT was recognized as a 2017 Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

The nonprofit organization annually selects 365 two- and four-year colleges and universities that have shown particular dedication to their campus environment. In order to be considered for the award, institutions must apply almost a year in advance.

Campuses are selected based on five standards, including having a campus tree care plan and a campus tree advisory committee. The committee must include student, faculty, facility management, and community representatives.

The campus tree advisory committee at UT is made up of seven members, one of whom is UT arborist Sam Adams.

According to Adams, tree care at UT is no small job—there are approximately 8,750 trees on the UT campus, including those on satellite properties.

The main focus of tree maintenance is removing trees that might pose a hazard to people or property. Adams said being vigilant in monitoring dead branches and trees significantly reduces the need for emergency response during potentially catastrophic weather conditions.

“We focus on trees primarily to protect people and property first, then we look at the aesthetics last—light penetration, air movement, things like that.”

Adams said recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation is the culmination of a year of hard work on behalf of the committee.

“I report to the committee twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, letting them know what I’m doing and what I’m planning to be doing,” Adams said. “They’re happy knowing the work being done is progressive along with the thoughts involved.”

This is the first time UT has received recognition, but Adams said the City of Knoxville as well as the Knoxville Utility Board have been acknowledged in the past as part of two affiliate programs, Tree City USA and Tree Line USA.

“I felt that it was important to meet that trifecta,” said Adams. “The university is a big part of the city and it’s now part of this program that Arbor Day set up. It gives us another little thing to hang our hat on.”

For more information about Tree Campus USA and the Arbor Day Foundation, visit the organization’s website.


Amy Blakely (, 865-974-5034)

Jorden Albright (