AU joins national garden association

AU's landscape, which includes more than 1,700 plants, a Civil War era white oak and a blossoming Franklinia, named after Benjamin Franklin, led to its becoming a member of the National Arboretum and Botanic Garden Association last year.

Landscape architect Michael Mastrota explained the process of beautifying the campus.

"The [landscape] projects will generally be tied to a building renovation," Mastrota said.

When the administration says they want an area to look better, the landscape architects - H. Paul Davis and Mastrota - discuss what to do and how much it will cost. After the administration approves pricing, a contractor is hired to complete the project, Mastrota said.

"It's [often] difficult to pinpoint how much it costs," Mastrota said.

Groundskeeper David Wilson said he is dedicated to making the campus as beautiful as possible, although he often faces unforeseen challenges.

"The landscape at AU is worked on five to seven days a week by 22 diligent staff members who take pride in AU's grounds," Wilson said.

Hurricane Isabel did not cause any major damage except for a few downed trees and a lot of limbs, Wilson said. Fortunately, the white oak and the Franklinia survived the hurricane as well, he added.

Wilson called the damage to the Quad caused by students during the hurricane "disappointing."

"Students complain about how much money is spent at the University and think they can do whatever they want," Wilson said. "The staff tries to make a facility that meets everybody's needs and when they destroy the grounds it doesn't help."

Wilson said he hopes the students learned a lesson after witnessing the poor appearance of the Quad.

Mastrota and Wilson were members of the team that won the "Thousand Dollar Idea" contest last year and encouraged AU to become a member of the National Arboretum and Botanic Garden Association.

"It was great [winning the contest]," Mastrota said. "We worked on it for three years. The University and its landscape have a lot to offer with our gardens and trees."

Student opinions about the campus landscape vary.

"Is the campus pretty? There's too much concrete, which causes it to be too slippery in the winter, there's garbage everywhere in the Quad, and there's chemical weapons in the baseball field," sophomore Dan Cohen said, "But McKinley is pretty."

Other students said they enjoy the campus's appearance.

"Quite frankly, I think the campus is off the hook. It is as nice as it can be considering it's in the middle of D.C.," freshman Josh White said.

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