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Trees next to BSU stadium come down

MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER A construction worker prepares to tear out a stump at Chet Anderson Stadium on Thursday. The fate of three old pine trees on the west end of the field were the source of controversy this week, as construction crews worked on field renovations nearby.

BEMIDJI -- The removal of three large trees, a side effect of the adjacent renovation to Bemidji State University's Chet Anderson Stadium, drew ire this week from those who wanted to preserve the pines.

But by Thursday afternoon, little more than a few stumps, limbs and branches remained sitting on the field.

"We are very upset about how little dialogue there was throughout this process," Caitlyn Schuchhardt, who was one of two people sitting under one of the trees Tuesday in protest of its pending demise while construction crews worked nearby, wrote in Facebook message. She said that tree was more than 100 years old, and older than campus itself.

The controversy launched a discussion throughout social media over the past few days. An online petition asking BSU President Richard Hanson to prevent the trees from being cut down drew 318 signatures before being closed.

Bemidji State University posted a letter from Hanson on The Pioneer's Facebook page Thursday explaining the decision to tear the trees down. He wrote that the artificial turf, which will be paid for with external and private funds, "will be a major and much-needed improvement to BSU athletic facilities."

The upgrades involve replacing the natural grass with synthetic turf. The BSU football and soccer teams will use the field, as well as the Bemidji High School football team.

"Although we originally had hoped to save one or more of the trees, professionals on the project advised us from the outset that this would not be possible," Hanson continued. "Two of the trees would have overhung the playing surface, posing a safety hazard and maintenance challenge from the needles and falling sap."

Hanson added that the third tree "almost certainly would be irreparably damaged by the turf replacement work, and there was no practical way to prevent that." That opinion was shared by a state Department of Natural Resources specialist who visited the site Tuesday, according to Erika Bailey-Johnson, the university's sustainability coordinator.

Hanson said they will explore ways of making the wood from those trees into something "visible and meaningful on our campus."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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