By Seth Slabaugh, The Star Press
They aren't much to look at yet, but the two new theme gardens flanking the entrance to Emens Auditorium add to the list of reasons to walk, wheel, bicycle, tricycle or push a stroller through the grounds of Ball State University.
And if you don't like crowds, summer semester is the best time to visit. One recent weekday afternoon, The Star Press encountered more squirrels than people on the 731-acre campus.
And you can't complain about parking. On weekends and after 4 p.m. weekdays, enforcement at parking garages, parking meters and parking lots is suspended (except for disabled and other specialty spaces)
Hiding in plain sight on the campus is an arboretum, aka tree museum, which became accredited in 2015. It is made up of more than 7,000 trees, nearly 250 types of trees, and five tree trails that include dozens of tree identification signs.
"One problem we are having is squirrels like to sharpen their teeth on the plastic signs," said Michael Planton, the university's top landscape horticulturalist. "We used aluminum; they loved aluminum, so we have to get hardened steel, which is very expensive."
But it's necessary. "Part of our requirements for being an arboretum is to provide education to not only people on campus but to the community," Planton said. "We try to sign most plants so you know what they are."