An aerial view of Moraine Valley Community College’s tree-filled campus.

An aerial view of Moraine Valley Community College’s tree-filled campus.

The number and variety of trees on its campus has earned Moraine Valley Community College Arboretum Accreditation-Level I status through the ArbNet program, which is associated with The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Moraine Valley is the first community college and one of five colleges/universities in Illinois with this designation.

Thousands of trees dot Moraine Valley’s campus, including 1,322 in 77 distinct species that have been plotted and mapped. Many trees and woody shrubs already are labeled, particularly in the Shakespeare Garden, for passersby to learn common and species names. More plotting, mapping and labeling is underway.

Over the years, the college’s Campus Operations department has enhanced campus greenery, backed by an emphasis on the effort in the Campus Strategic Plan, Master Facilities Plan, Climate Action Plan, and Tree Campus USA Tree Care Plan. Collectively, they indicate that maintaining a healthy, thriving tree canopy and beautiful campus for the community is a priority to the college and its leadership, explained Stephenie Presseller, Moraine Valley Sustainability manager.

The College Climate Action Plan also calls for more use of the campus as a “living learning lab,” which entails using campus features to teach students, staff, faculty, and community members. Becoming an arboretum is an extension of that effort.

“Moraine Valley has a strong commitment to being a good steward of the environment and especially to caring for the planet’s tree resources, including the many trees that make our campus so inviting,” said Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, Moraine Valley president. “This accreditation is a direct result of those efforts, and we are very proud of this achievement for our college.”

Presseller and her intern Kevin Zehr (Palos Hills), who was a student in Moraine Valley’s Geographic Information System career program, have worked since last winter to make this designation a reality. Zehr gathered data to help make the spreadsheet and maps of the campus trees while Presseller worked on the application.

“Gaining ArbNet Arboretum status is a great recognition for the years of care and maintenance of our beautiful tree canopy. Trees have always been a priority feature of our campus landscape, and I have no doubt it will continue to be in the future,” Presseller said.