Tree smashes into UMass greenhouse

By Alyssa Creamer

High winds snapped a 70-foot hemlock tree and it flew, crashing into the University of Massachusetts greenhouse No. 2 at French Hall on Dec. 30. The tree’s collision not only destroyed greenhouse No. 2, a 30-by-40-foot structure, but also damaged two other smaller 12-by-15 foot greenhouses.

According to greenhouse technician Jeffrey Anderson, the damage to these buildings is estimated to cost UMass ‘at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars’ in demolition and cleanup of hazardous waste expenses along with the costs to reroute electrical and plumbing services.

Winds were estimated to have reached 48 miles per hour on campus, and the tree, with a diameter of at least 2.5 feet split itself at a height of 8 feet. No one was injured as a result of the tree’s collapse, yet several problems for those who need the greenhouses have sprung up.

The greenhouses, which were built 95 years ago when French Hall was constructed, were declared safe for students and faculty to research and study within before the tree collapsed.

However, as is commonly found in old buildings, lead paint was used on the piping of the greenhouses.

UMass physical plant officials believe that hazardous waste such as asbestos may contaminate the air in the greenhouse during demolition. As a result, all three of the greenhouses are now boarded up and entering is prohibited.

Since greenhouse No. 2 was the main entrance and walkway students and staff used to get to the other greenhouses, people are finding it much more difficult to get to the other greenhouses.

‘The traffic flow into and out of the greenhouses is one of our biggest problems now,’ said Anderson. ‘Getting people and supplies in and out of the greenhouses will be a problem until they get the temporary walkway up from French Hall to the greenhouses.’

According to Anderson, UMass campus facility members intend to wait until the remnants of the buildings are cleared and then construct a covered walkway for people to walk safely through to the other greenhouses.

They are also looking at the possibility of putting up a temporary plastic greenhouse. Anderson believes the plastic greenhouse would only be temporary because of previous plans to build a new greenhouse by the greenhouse at UMass’ Bowditch Hall.

In addition to problems traveling to and from each building, greenhouse technicians, students and staff have lost a significant amount of work space. Despite losing a large amount of foliage plant material used in classes, the greenhouse technicians believe they can divide up the plants they rescued and counteract the loss in donations as well.

‘We did not get hurt as bad as we could have,’ said Anderson, referring to the loss of plant material.

Alyssa Creamer can be reached at [email protected]