SEATTLE — Nothing ushers in spring quite like the cherry blossoms at the University of Washington. The iconic trees draw so many admirers that they’ve become a symbol and a selling point of the school itself.
So you can imagine the reaction when construction crews cut down 24 of them on the campus promenade known as Rainier Vista. They were removed as part of the Montlake Triangle project, where crews are building a pedestrian land bridge from the campus to the future light rail station at Husky Stadium.
“The reaction was stronger than for any construction project,” said arborist Sara Shores. She explained the trees were too old and fragile to transplant.
“First the trees had brown rot, which is very hard to control in this climate,” she said. “They were getting close to the end of their lifespan. These were Kwanzan cherry trees, so their life span is close to 35 years.”
The trees will live a new life in the architecture department.
“They’ve got a lot of character, a lot of strength. They’ve been here a long time and now we get to use them,” said Kimo Griggs, Associate Professor in U.W.’s Department of Architecture. He explained students in digital design and fabrication will manipulate the wood into furnishings.
“Rather than start with flat board, we’ll start with the shape of the tree and design something that works with that shape,” he said.
And to mitigate the loss of those trees, 12 new Shirofugen cherry trees were planted this week, donated by the Japanese consulate.
Eventually U.W. will have to decide the future of the famed Yoshino trees in the quad, also nearing the sunset of their lifespan. Saplings have already been grafted from these very same trees. They’ve replaced two so far.
A total of 228 trees have to be removed for the construction project. Those trees will be replaced with the same number of trees in different parts of the campus.