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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

MSU Abbot Road entrance to be rejuvenated for historical longevity


April 11, 2016 

Media inquiries: Katie Gervasi, (517) 432-3629,

The historical entrance to the Michigan State University (MSU) campus is scheduled for a four week landscape rejuvenation project beginning May 25. The Abbot Road entrance will be reconstructed so that generations of future Spartans will enjoy the same landscape aesthetic as intended by its original designers.

The original historic design was a formal boulevard of trees,said Jeff Kacos, MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) Campus Planning. The existing Norway maples have now reached an age that they are declining. Over time, some have died and left gaps in the landscape, while those remaining have grown at different rates creating a visual imbalance. The streetscape no longer reflects the original design intent and its appearance has become a bit ragged.

In their current state, the existing trees require annual maintenance by IPF Landscape Services to address the declining condition of the 21 Norway maples and one Norway spruce. This includes the removal of several trees in recent years that have died or become a safety concern. The remaining trees have declined to a point where they need to be removed.

“Norway maples are invasive non-native trees that were originally thought to be great additions to the landscape,” said Kacos. “Over time, however, we have learned they have significant problems, including expansion of their range into native landscapes, where they compete for space and resources. Norway maples are no longer planted on campus.” While healthy trees grow their roots in an outward array, Norway maples have a tendency to produce girdling roots, which means that some of the roots encircle the trunk just below the ground. This action will eventually strangle the tree by constricting the flow of its vascular system, causing dieback of the canopy.

“Healthy trees should normally be trimmed every four to six years, but because of their age and condition, we have to trim these trees every year to remove dead wood,” said Paul Swartz, IPF campus arborist.

A team of tree experts, consisting of faculty and staff representing various departments throughout MSU, collaborated to identify and prioritize important campus locations requiring renovation. Recently completed landscape enhancement projects include supplementing and/or replacing numerous trees in the Historic Oval (the park-like area Beaumont Tower lives in); trees within the Old Horticulture Garden; trees adjacent to Benefactors Plaza, trees surrounding Demonstration Hall Field and trees within the Auditorium building’s west lawn.

“The restoration of the plantings at the Abbot Road entrance will enhance the landscape quality of the north campus,” said Frank Telewski, professor of plant biology and curator of the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Woody Plant Collection. “It will provide an esthetically pleasing entry to campus from East Lansing that will be consistent with the historic context of previous landscape designs.”

The Abbot Road entrance landscape project will:

  • Support the Campus Master Plan’s recommendation for establishing a recognizable and visually attractive design aesthetic that appropriately identifies the campus at its borders; provides for safe circulation and aids visitor wayfinding.
  • Respect the historic context by recreating the original canopy structure of the Norway maples with swamp white oaks; representing some of the oldest trees on campus and a native species to Michigan.
  • Support the MSU Shadows wood repurposing initiative by reclaiming all useable wood.
  • Improve safety by remedying current visual impediments, including the removal of existing low evergreen plantings.
  • Provide a seasonal backdrop to the historic limestone marker (a gift from the class of 1938) with ornamental crabapples.
  • Repair sidewalks to code based on the American Disabilities Act regulations in the area of Campbell Hall and the MSU Union; restore four masonry benches at Campbell Hall.

According to Telewski, the Abbot Road entrance landscape project will “benefit from our current knowledge about creating safer, sustainable landscapes, using native species and non-invasive species that are consistent with developing and maintaining a sustainable campus.”

MSU IPF Landscape Services will begin the Abbot Road entrance landscape project on May 25 and is scheduled to complete it within four weeks. Construction impacts include:

  • Road closures on southbound Abbot road, May 25-June 10 on Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. (road will remain open in the evenings and on the weekends).
  • Parking bay closures along southbound  Abbot road, May 25-June 17.
  • Minor pedestrian detours, May 25-June 17.

“The intent of the project is to present a rejuvenated historic entrance for our campus community to enjoy for many generations to come,” said Tressa Wahl, IPF landscape designer.

Read more about the Abbot Road landscape project.

Read more about the Abbot Road entrance completion.