The University of Mobile is committed to preserving and protecting its historic Eichold Oaks for future generations to enjoy, and a $1.2 million construction project is underway that will strengthen the oaks flanking Pollock-Altmayer Drive, the only entrance to campus, university officials said.
It’s part of an overall $7 million Campus Enhancement Project occurring at the Christian university, according to Steve Lee, vice president for business affairs.
“We had an asset in danger, and the university wanted to ensure these beautiful trees will be here for future generations,” said Lee, who oversees the fiscal and physical plant operations of the 880-acre campus.
Lee said an inventory had been made of the total 115 large oaks on campus, and many were found to be in poor health due to erosion and previous hurricane damage. Pruning and deep root fertilization is helping bring them back, and cables installed high in the branches strengthen the trees and will help keep the canopy high enough so vehicles may pass on the drive underneath.
Workers are in the initial phase of a construction project that will include a retaining wall along the front drive to handle erosion around the roots of 43 oaks planted along the drive in 1969, according to Vicki Burgin, director of institutional operations. The original lighting installed in 1963 along the drive has been removed and will be replaced with lamppost-style lighting to complement the new entrance gate.
A walkway will be added, so students can enjoy jogging or walking beneath the oaks. The initial Eichold Oaks project is expected to be completed by Aug. 1.
Kim Browder, director of physical plant services for National Management Resources at UMobile, said the scope of the project was “driven by the oak trees and the university’s commitment to the oaks.”
“There was great concern and discussion about what was best for the oaks. There are many different ways we could have built a retaining wall and sidewalk, but it was all about preserving and protecting the oaks,” Browder said.
Prominent Mobile physician Dr. Samuel Eichold and his wife, Charlotte, donated over
100 live oaks to the University of Mobile in 1969 in honor of his parents, Bernard H. and Myra Eichold. Dr. Eichold, whose family name derived from German
means "sturdy oak," continued a family tradition of planting live oaks by donating additional trees throughout the years.
A plaque on campus commemorating the donation reads, “Today, The Eichold Oaks stand as a beautiful reminder of the strength of a family, a tradition, and a university.”
UMobile President Dr. Mark Foley said the $7 million Campus Enhancement Project is aimed at maximizing use of existing academic spaces while enhancing the beauty and function of certain campus facilities.
Writing about the project in the University of Mobile Magazine Spring 2013 issue, Foley wrote, “’Building the campus beautiful in the Deep South,’ as founding president Dr. William K. Weaver Jr. described it back in the 1960s, is an ongoing process. As the campus grows and changes, so do the needs for classroom space, student activities areas and athletic facilities.
“Our new Campus Enhancement Project is meeting those changing needs by making more efficient use of space in our existing facilities without new building construction. The project is also revitalizing and protecting the beautiful oak trees that give our campus drive such an impressive and welcoming entrance,” Foley wrote.
Lee said the project includes renovating facilities to add new classrooms and office space, new fitness center and grill, renovating the bookstore and expanding offerings to include gifts and magazines, adding lighting to the baseball field, replacing original windows in Weaver Hall, and more. Those projects are expected to be complete in spring 2014.
Lee said the quadrangle in front of Weaver Hall is also slated for future improvements, including walkways, irrigation and seating beneath the Eichold Oaks surrounding the area in front of Weaver Hall, the first building on campus.
For more information about the University of Mobile, visit the website at www.umobile.edu
or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.
Artist's rendering of retaining wall and new lighting on right bank of Pollock-
Altmayer Drive on University of Mobile campus