The trees were between sixty and eighty years old. They were cut down on Saturday, 23 February. People noticed right away.
In an opinion piece for the UKrant, assistant professor and president of activist group De Bomenridders Kristin McGee expressed her concern about the trees’ disappearance. Her piece garnered support on social media: one reader said cutting down the trees was ‘a total waste and completely unnecessary’. ‘We’re cutting down too many trees, without good reason’, another said.
‘We’re also really sorry to see the trees go’, says university spokesperson Jorien Bakker. ‘But we had no choice but to cut them down.’ They were affected by bleeding canker, an infection that causes brown spots on the bark of chestnut trees, which eventually leads to rot and tree death.
The rot weakens the trees so much branches can snap off without warning. ‘We can’t take the risk of someone getting hit by a branch during a storm’, says Bakker. So the RUG asked the city for permission to cut down the trees. Several diseased trees in the botanical garden behind the Heymans building in the Grote Kruisstraat were also cut down. On 9 March, the RUG will cut down a tree in the enclosed garden at the Broerstraat.
The university sent a letter informing neighbours about the felling and is currently working on a replanting plan. They will plant new trees in the botanical garden in the spring. There are also plans to plant new greenery at the Harmonie building and the Broerstraat, though it isn’t clear yet when that will happen. Bakker said that each felled tree would be replaced.
‘Of course it’s a shame’
‘We do take care of our trees, especially the really large ones’, Bakker emphasises. She agrees that the university does do some extreme pruning, but only when it is necessary to extend the life of a tree or minimise the risk of falling branches. ‘These trees were so sick that we couldn’t justify keeping them. Of course it’s a shame; we agree with everyone on that.’
The university certainly isn’t planning on destroying all the green in the city. ‘The RUG and the city have been working to add more plants and trees for a long time. In consultation with the neighbours, trees or plants have been planted in all the empty lots around town.’