Whither Elm Tree Lawn?

After years of study and with advice from arborists and plant pathologists, the College has made a difficult decision regarding the dying elm trees that form Scripps’ historic and beloved Elm Tree Lawn. Rather than continue the policy of replacement as needed, which Scripps has followed since late 1999, the College will renew the entire landscape with contract-grown trees in five or six years.

Elm Tree Lawn, an allée of 18 paired American elms, is one of the signature landscapes at Scripps.Annual commencement exercises and other major events at the College take place under this canopy, designed by Edward Huntsman-Trout in 1939. For several years, the College has had concerns with the health of the trees. Elm trees are not native to Southern California; in this climate, they live for only 75-80 years.

Over the past several years, the College has engaged two consulting arborists to study the condition of the elm trees. In December 1999, the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board decided to remove and replace trees as they neared the end of their lives or became a safety concern. One tree was removed in 2001 for safety reasons, and three of the weakest trees were removed during the 2004-05 semester break.

In the summer of 2004, Jim Clark, a plant pathologist with a specialty in elm trees, was contacted to examine the trees. His report was received by the Buildings and Grounds Committee in September 2004. Along with the recommendation to renew the entire landscape with contract-grown trees in five or six years, Dr. Clark advised that the College continue to carefully onitor and prune the remaining elms until the replacement trees reach a height of 25 or 30 feet.According to Lola Trafecanty, director of grounds, the replacement trees will be disease-resistant Princeton elms.

Don Johnson, chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said:

“Contemplating the removal of the trees in Elm Tree Lawn has been one of the more difficult topics we have faced on the Buildings and Grounds Committee over the last several years…The difficulty has been in arriving at an approach which will provide for the safety of all persons on campus and preserve the traditional setting for our graduation ceremonies. Elm Tree Lawn is a special place on campus and is in the heart of each and every alumna.The adopted approach of removing any trees posing a hazard, while contract growing replacement trees, will provide the required safety while minimizing the impact upon the campus.”