New boulevard trees, shrubs welcome Homecoming visitors

Posted on Sep 25, 2014 in Campus News and News

Jayhawk Boulevard landscaping
Jayhawk Boulevard’s street, sidewalk, lighting and sewer renovations wrapped up just in time for the start of classes Aug. 25, and now landscaping crews are hard at work planting dozens of trees, hundreds of bushes and thousands of perennials before alumni and their families return to campus for this weekend’s Homecoming celebrations.

The new landscaping will be nurtured by innovative stormwater drainage that directs overflow rains to the plantings, where specially engineered soil captures the water and keeps it available for trees and shrubs.

The current project includes 60 trees, predominantly a mix of elm and oak species, as well as 751 Compact Pfitzer juniper shrubs and 4,927 big blue turf lily perennials. Although work on the sidewalks and street surface was completed in late August, plantings had to wait until mid-September’s cooler, wetter weather.

“Last weekend and this week, they got a lot planted,” says Paul Graves, deputy director of KU’s Office of Design and Construction Management. “They planted some of the trees, and I would say a majority of the shrubs, and they also put in mulch.

“If weather cooperates, a lot more will be planted [Wednesday] evening, overnight, and then we’ll probably continue to have some remaining items to do over the next week or so. The intent, obviously, is to get as much completed as possible before Homecoming weekend. It’s already looking much better, and by the end of the week it will be that much closer to being totally completed.”

Graves says the landscaping is intended to replicated the beloved shade canopy that towered over Jayhawk Boulevard in the 1950s, but this time with a healthy diversity of species to avoid the single-species die-off that doomed the boulevard’s elms.

“We will have several different species of elms, several different species of oak, and a couple of trees of other species, as well,” Graves says. “They are all trees that are native and can thrive in the Kansas climate.”

The first phase of the four-summer overhaul of Jayhawk Boulevard rebuilt the streetscape from the Chi Omega fountain to Poplar Lane, directly west of Strong Hall; this summer’s work, Phase 2, stretched past Wescoe Beach to the four-way stop at Sunflower Drive; next summer’s renovations will run from Watson Library to 14th Street, between Danforth Chapel and Spooner Hall; and in summer 2016 the project terminates at 13th Street, in front of the Adams Alumni Center.

Total costs for the physical improvements are estimated at $11 million; the four summers of landscaping upgrades are budgeted for $1 million, with that money being raised from private donors by KU Endowment.

—Chris Lazzarino

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