Chris Turletes Memorial Tree Tour
The Anchorage Campus is home to the state's largest variety of tree species planted on public land. UAA established a self-guided tree tour to help spread awareness about this collection, which includes over 70 different species planted across east and west campus.
The tour was started in 1996 by Patricia Leary, then Horticulture Supervisor, and has served a critical role in connecting the Anchorage community to UAA's wider goals of campus canopy stewardship. The tour encompasses one of the largest collections of native and exotic ornamental trees in Southcentral Alaska. Our campus canopy serves as a living laboratory for students across the community, including elementary school classes who participate in guided tours to learn about environmental stewardship and plant science.
In 2021, the Tree Tour was renamed the Chris Turletes Memorial Tree Tour in memory of Chris' significant impacts to tree stewardship across UAA's campuses.
We invite the public to visit the Anchorage Campus and witness the value a well-maintained campus forest brings to our land; our faculty, staff, and students; and the mental and spiritul wellness of our larger community.
Who Was Chris Turletes?
Chris was a former Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services. He served UAA with distinction for 14 years, retiring in 2017. He was a graduate of UAA's College of Engineering, having received his Master's in Engineering & Science Management in 1989. Chris passed away on July 21, 2021 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.
During Chris' tenure, UAA experienced one of its largest construction booms, significantly expanding the built environment. Chris was deeply concerned about the impact of this physical growth on the natural environment. In response, he pushed UAA to enact a No-Net Tree Loss Policy that called for a 1-for-1 replacement of trees on university lands. Under his leadership, staff, student organizations, and volunteers planted thousands of young trees on UAA's Anchorage, Kenai, and Mat-Su Campuses; UAF's Experimental Farm in Palmer; and other University of Alaska-owned land within Southcentral Alaska. By the time Chris retired, UAA had planted over 20,000 seedlings, nearly exhausting our "tree debt."
Chris championed the tenets of sustainable land management and the care of trees on campus, making UAA a perfect fit for the Tree Campus Higher Education designation through the Arbor Day Foundation. This has allowed UAA Grounds and Landscape staff to focus attention on proper tree maintenance and responsible land stewardship; engage directly with the campus community; and encourage continuing education amongst staff in the field of arboriculture. Prioritization of these initiaties started under Chris and continues to this day. UAA must apply annually to maintain this prestigious designation and has successfully met the criteria every year for 11 years- a distinction few universities can claim.
Chris did not just make proclamations about campus canopy stewardship. He was an active participant and planted trees alongside students, staff, faculty, and community volunteers. He regularly donated hundreds of seedlings to UAA, ensuring we continue to make headway against tree losses to spruce beetle and record dought. After his retirement he maintained membership on the Tree Campus Committee and a frequently checked in on the work and well-being staff.
The care of the natural environment was a priority for Chris. Across all of his accomplishments at UAA, he cherished the work he did to replace trees lost to construction and educate the campus community about the importance of stewardship for our natural environment. Dedicating the Tree Tour in memory of Chris Turletes honors his legacy at UAA and provides a great avenue for us to continue his work.