Trees removed to make way for EMU project

EUGENE, Ore. - Workers removed a century-old tree and other vegetation from the University of Oregon campus on Wednesday to make way for a $95 million remodel and expansion of the student union building.

The London planetree was at least 80 and maybe 100 years old, said Whitey Lueck.

The adjunct instructor, who teaches classes and leads tours of both campus and Eugene trees, said it was one of the largest and oldest of its kind in Oregon.

"Shame! Shame on everyone involved in this project," Lueck yelled at workers as they cut down the tree.

"I learned just yesterday the tree could be cut as early as 7 this morning," he said. "I knew they weren't going to fool around because there's been a good size stink made about this."

KVAL News spoke to Lueck about his concerns Monday.

At the time, the Erb Memorial Union staff said it was too late to change the tree's fate.

"There were public meetings deciding which trees came down and looking at the whole space planned for the student union," Laurie Woodward, the EMU director, said Monday, "and no one raised any concerns about that tree."

Lueck said he was discouraged from raising concerns at the last minute.

"It's a done deal, Whitey. You should've said something earlier," he recalled being told. "They told me it's simply not worth my time to pursue this.

"How could I tell my students next year that I stood by and didn't say anything while this happened?"

Lueck wasn't the only person who turned out to watch Wednesday.

"I've never seen a tree that big come down like that," said Helen Liu. "It was - it's a little unreal."

Liu pointed to other redevelopment projects where trees were incorporated into the design.

"Oakway Mall is built around a set of oak trees that could have been taken down," she said, "but they didn't do that."