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Wetland shortcut does more harm than good

May 1, 2008

Behind South Fork Suites is a patch of wetlands covering approximately 27,500 square feet.  The wetlands are divided by a beaten path of trampled grasses and mud.  That path connects South Fork Suites to the rest of campus and is often considered a shortcut by students living in the suites.  The University refuses to pave the path, claiming it would cost around $10,000.

  The path runs through a wetlands area, Manny Kenney building and grounds supervisor said. However, the primary reason for leaving the path unpaved is the high cost, Kenney said. 

  If the Student Life Committee approves the South Fork Suites addition, new paths and a quicker access to campus would come along with the new building.  The addition would span the tennis courts, Kenney said.  He also said he urges students to avoid using the footpath and stick to the paved sidewalks.

  Wetlands play an important role in the environment. They can improve water quality, reduce floods, influence groundwater recharge and discharge, maintain stream flow during dry periods and provide aesthetics and recreation, said Donavon Taylor, professor of soil science.

  “There is considerable interest in protecting existing wetlands in the United States due to their important functions in the environment,” Taylor said. 

  He said he believes the campus should put up a sign to stop students from using this path and destroying the wetlands in this area. 

  The new South Fork Suites addition will not damage the current wetlands in that area, Kenney said.

  The actual time saved is minimal compared to taking the paved sidewalk around the basketball courts, even though the path appears to be a more direct route. When asked if they thought the path was a significant shortcut, eight out of ten students living in South Fork Suites said they thought it was.

  The emphasis has been on keeping students away from the roads and on the sidewalks Kenney said. The current path links directly with the road system snaking from behind the basketball courts near South Fork around the south side of the University Center.

  The area around the path is a mud hole in the late winter and spring, which causes a mess inside South Fork.  Dried mud and grasses are tracked all over the stairways inside the building, making more work for the janitorial staff. In the past two months, the path has become two to three feet wider. To avoid the mud, students have been walking on the edges of the path damaging more of the wetland.