It was a great pleasure to take a walk in the woods with people like Nancy Ailes of the Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust and Keith Eshleman of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. I tried to give a sense of their life’s work in the article “Saving Trees for the Forest.”
Nancy Ailes is downright inspirational. She doesn’t like being credited with what she’s done in the Cacapon watershed — so far saving 10,000 acres from development. She prefers to give credit to the farmers and landowners who’ve established conservation easements on their land. And it’s true that Mike Rudolf and other landowners who’ve taken this step are heroes. On the other hand, one can imagine that without her dedication, her sincerity, her persistence, that number of acres may never have been placed under conservation easement.
Another surprise came up while working on this issue — the plight of a small patch of woods on the College Park campus called the “wooded hillock.” Environmental researchers like Stephen Prince in the Department of Geography put me in touch with this debate, which surrounds one of the University’s last remaining woodlots along busy University Boulevard. Campus officials want to cut down almost half the woods to move some facilities away from Route 1, an area picked for more upscale development. I describe the conflict briefly in “A View from Above.”
Just after we went to press, the faculty senate at the University of Maryland, College Park voted to preserve the “wooded hillock.” Now apparently the ball is in the court of campus officials. On the one hand they have to figure out where to put a parking lot and some maintenance facilities; on the other hand they have committed to preserving the campus’s natural environment and what remains of its trees. Perhaps there are those charged with facilities management who can come up with some creative solutions.
For the sake of the trees, I hope so.
An update (March 18, 2010): Since I wrote this blog, the College Park campus has been in negotiations to purchase the parcel along Route 1 used by the Washington Post as a printing facility. The University would use the parcel for their own maintenance facilities and parking lots. If this goes through, it will prove a creative solution to a challenging issue — and the trees of the wooded hillock will be spared.