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Wednesday, 02 March 2011 20:36

HCC causes a stir with clear cutting

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A new and long-awaited Creative Arts Building is only days away from its groundbreaking ceremony at Haywood Community College. But the tree clearing undertaken to prepare the way for the new crafts center has proven less-than-popular with some of the school’s forestry students.

Andy Fitzsimmons, a student in the college’s nationally recognized forestry program, said he’s lamenting the loss of trees that have been used as teaching tools for the school’s natural resources programs.

“There were some trees in there that had been there for a very long time, there were some that were just starting to sprout up,” said Fitzsimmons. “I feel like it just takes away learning tools from other departments.”

The college says that the trees in question had to go in order to make way for contractors to begin work. Some students were also displeased by the way the plants were taken out — dozed over rather than cut.

“They just seemed to go in there with tractors and push trees over, they didn’t even saw a lot of the trees,” said Jeremy Graves, a recent forestry graduate. “Even if they were going to proceed at that site, they could’ve taken their time and allowed the students to go in there and fell the trees. That would’ve been an excellent teaching opportunity for students that are still in the program.”

Debbie Trull, the school’s executive director of administration, said that the college really did everything in its power to fell the trees properly, making sure they were still useable either for firewood or to be milled and reused as flooring in the school’s new research house.

As for using students in the removal process, Trull said the idea was broached by the architect and discussed at the school, but because of a logging accident that happened there in 1982, the decision was made that letting students cut the trees was too dangerous.

“Where they get the opportunity to practice with their chainsaws is in their operating-a-chainsaw class,” said Trull, adding that they did use forestry students to mark the trees that were appropriate for removal before uprooting them.

Some students, however, see the bare and leveled patch of land as an eyesore and blemish on the face of their famously beautiful campus.

“It’s supposed to be an arboretum,” said Graves. “People come from all over to see the school, to walk through there and see the plants and wildlife. I think it kind-of goes against what the school claims to promote and I think it’s a big eyesore for the campus.”

Dae-Won Koh, the project manager for the building and vice president of Innovative Designs, the project’s lead architect, said that they’ve actually planned for the removal of as few trees as possible. In fact, said Koh, the amount of trees left on the site is going to be a greater challenge for the contractor, but they felt it was important to save as much of the surrounding flora as possible.

The contract for the $8.3 million building, which will house the college’s well-known professional crafts programs, was just awarded to Miles-McClellan Construction. The groundbreaking is scheduled for March 6, after which construction on the 41,665-square-foot, environmentally friendly building will begin in earnest.

By the time construction is finished, said Koh, the school is planning to replant two trees for every tree that was removed, which will be reflected in his final landscape plan.

In fact, he said, though the decision to cut down larger, older trees might not be as aesthetically pleasing or popular as removing smaller ones, research done by his firm has shown that it will go further towards reducing the building’s carbon footprint.

“The reason that we supported the college’s decision on planting new trees two-to-one is because when they [the trees] are old, their photosynthesis is quite low compared to the young trees,” said Koh. “If you plant new, young trees, they have to grow so fast, the contribution to the environment is the greater.”

Trull said that the school has taken all these things into consideration and has tried to make the most eco-friendly decisions for the site.

“There is a landscape plan and we worked within that contract as we could and with the department of natural resources as much as we could to do everything correctly,” said Trull.

Even so, the naked patch that now features in the center of an otherwise-green campus still doesn’t sit well with some who prize the school for its natural beauty and want to keep it that way.

“It’s an area of natural space that’s destroyed, it’s gone,” said Graves. “To drive by there and see it, it just hurts.”

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