For years, an unassuming ash tree has stood quietly in a prominent location on the northwest corner of the Kiewit Fitness Center Lawn. This tree, the Richard Harrington Memorial Tree or Rich’s Tree, was nominated by the family of Lindsay Surdell (CU LAW 2002) and Mark Eichten (CU B.S.B.A. 2000). In Lindsay’s nomination she wrote:
“Rich attended Creighton University in 1995 on a cross country scholarship. He was extremely close to my husband Mark Eichten, graduate of Creighton University in 2000. Rich was filled with life, adventure, and enjoyed every day to fullest. On Easter Sunday of 2000 Rich drowned in the Colorado River. It was a sudden, tragic loss for all of us. His parents, Karen and Jim Harrington, are faith filled devout Catholics whom commemorated Rich's love of life with the tree on the Creighton Campus. Currently his parents reside in Plano, Texas and view the tree through the Creighton University web cam finding comfort, peace, and Rich's spirit surrounding them. This year Rich would be 35 years young. I know it would mean a lot to all who knew him to commemorate this year with the honor of favorite campus tree.”
Rich’s Tree is a species of ash, Fraxinus, a common and adaptable tree in the Nebraska landscape. Two species of ash are native to Nebraska, white ash (Fraxinus americana) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). White ash is familiar to many because of its striking fall color, which ranges from orange to reddish-purple, as seen in the popular variety ‘Autumn Purple’. Fall color in green ash ranges from pale yellow to gold. Borers and scale insects can be serious problems for both species, but green ash is less prone than white ash.
In general, ash species prefer moist, well-drained soils in full sun. Native ash trees are typically found in bottom lands and along river banks. In the landscape, ash trees are tolerant of drought, salt spray, and a wide range of soil pH, making them ideal for tough sites. Despite its adaptability, planting ash species has fallen out of favor in recent years with the discovery of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a non-native borer that is decimating native and planted ash populations in the upper Midwest. For more information on EAB and ash trees in general, visit www.emeraldashborer.info.