‘Treemendous’ trees help define Colby’s allure

By Merrill Read

People choose colleges and universities for various reasons: the food, professors, sports, location, programs offered, etc.. A few of Colby’s most notable draws include extremely accessible professors and a tight-knit community. Although there are a lot of reasons one might come to Colby, the trees are my reason.

“Trees?” you might ask. Yes, trees. More specifically, mature trees. I really love mature trees and living in a place with lots of them. I came to Colby for the first time during my junior year of high school on a dreary, foggy day. Despite the weather, I immediately fell in love with the campus, partly due to the number of beautiful, mature trees that inhabited Mayflower Hill.

While “mature trees” wasn’t something that I was actively looking for in a school, it did subconsciously make a difference in how I viewed the school. For example, while I visited Bates College, I took an admission tour in which they walk down their academic row. The tour guide spoke of the buildings that lined this walkway and how students use it daily to get to class. Students were laughing walking to class and the tour guide smiled contently, knowing it was a very “college” scene.

It should have been inspiring to any visiting student, but instead, was a major turn o for me. Why? Because the walkway had absolutely no mature trees and was instead was lined with pathetic, fragile, newly planted oaks. Looking back, I still can’t shake the experience from my head and that one section of campus tainted the rest of my visiting experience. There are other reasons for which I didn’t attend Bates (one of them being that it is in general not as amazing as Colby), but the trees definitely were a factor.

Colby, on the other hand, has some really gorgeous trees: pine, oak, the crabapple trees that annually put kids in casts during crabapple dropping season, and many more. These magnificent trees are reassuring, beautiful, and bring us back to nature while being right on campus. We have such great trees on campus that we even have a “Tree Tour” that you can follow, as many of the trees have plaques revealing their type. These trees are more than just attractive too, as students often climb to the top (allowed or not, I’m unsure). I remember my sophomore fall randomly looking up to spot a student sitting amidst the large branches, and how right that felt to me.

Students don’t often admire the trees until autumn comes around. Fall brings especially lovely colors that are hard to ignore. During this foliage, you can see the amazing pattern from Miller steps, echoing towards the coast. When people come to visit campus during this time, they admit that the colors in Maine, and especially at Colby, are unlike any they’ve encountered elsewhere. Michaela Oberkfell ’19, a student who has collected around 1,000 campus leaves for an independent study on Maples leaves, explained that Mayflower Hill’s trees are “special in that Colby has many non-native trees, such as the birch trees outside Olin that are European Birch”. Oberkfell continued, “there are [also] many red maples on campus, so there’s a variety in colors of leaves from different trees.” Maybe color is the reason why students only seem to appreciate the trees on campus, but either way, they’re underappreciated.

For example, I often hear students complain about the over-manicuring that our Physical Plant Department orchestrates every spring. Comments ranging from “did they paint the lawn, Jesus!” to “is it really necessary to reline the walkways with new grass?” I admit that yes, maybe Colby does go a little over the top in making our campus look extremely perfect, but also, I get it. One might say it is a waste in time and money, but I appreciate and admire all the work that goes into it. Colby’s well-kept greenery and lawns, beautiful layout, neo-Georgian buildings, and, of course, mature trees, were a large part of what got me here. Why couldn’t that be the same for some other potential student?

Lastly, mature trees stand for something. They’ve seen things. They’re established and emit a feeling of excellence and growth. They represent the evolution of the campus over time. As cliché as it sounds, mature trees remember those that came before us and, in time, they’ll remember us, too.