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Construction underway on park space outside Union

Heidi Ross, News Writer
November 14, 2012
Filed under News

Construction of a multipurpose area in front of the UW-Green Bay University Union will continue into next year with the hopes of strengthening student-to-campus ties.

More than a decade after the idea was first mentioned, Chancellor Thomas Harden’s Sustainability Fund Committee anticipates the multipurpose area’s inaugural semester to be fall 2013.

The estimated $100,000 in renovations will include staging areas, sand volleyball courts, picnic tables, grill stations and environmentally-friendly introductions such as low-mow grass.

During the first few days of construction, students voiced concerns about the environmental impact after seeing trees uprooted and the land cleared.

UWGB Student Government Association Environmental Affairs Chair Dan MacSwain said while the construction may be ugly, every precaution has been taken to ensure that the campus stands by its Eco-U philosophy.

“We did save the healthy trees and have relocated them to new grounds on our campus,” MacSwain said. “Also included in the budget is low-mow grass that requires less pollution from mowing and chemical fertilizers to maintain, plus a native prairie garden.”

UWGB Director of Residence Life Glenn Gray adds that defining Eco-U goes beyond taking down a few trees.

“Regarding the unhealthy and dead trees, they are going to be mulched, which UWGB will be using around the residence halls,” Gray said. “Eco-U doesn’t just mean protecting trees, it’s to be overall eco-friendly, and the changes simply represent our evolution toward a better campus.”

The idea for the park began in 2002 when students requested a permanent gathering place to hold bands outdoors, without requiring the rental of a portable stage and power sources.

Today, the master plan calls for the staging, power sources and an ice rink.

MacSwain said the committee is open to any ideas and input from students as to what else should be placed in the multipurpose area.

“Some other ideas we’ve tossed around include fire pits and an edible garden,” MacSwain said. “We really like the idea of having fresh campus-grown raspberries, apples and cherries available for student consumption.”

Another crucial detail of the project will be a bio filter to help the campus conserve more water, MacSwain said.

“We plan to plant some native species to help funnel storm water to the Shorewood Golf Course greens,” MacSwain said. “It’s much more eco-friendly to use rain water that’s already here to help keep the course green than to tap into the municipal water system.”

There was also concern with the cost and how much would be covered through tuition.

Gray assures students their tuition will not be affected by the multipurpose area.

The project is being paid for by the housing board of directors for UWGB, a private organization and is not being funded by tuition money, Gray said.

“The board saw the opportunity as an investment for the campus to hopefully attract more students since all campus tours walk through that area,” Gray said.

According to Gray, a key element in keeping residence hall costs low is making sure they are full. Nationally, campuses with an active student life are more likely to have a steady demand for on-campus housing. Gray said student happiness is a critical factor in the success of any campus.

“Statistics show that students who live on campus tend to perform better academically and make more friends here,” Gray said. “Safety is also very important and we believe the area will feel safer since the thick brush is gone and it’s an open area.”

Workers are also putting the finishing touches on the construction above Student Services, which will provide additional event space and multiple gardens. Dean of Students Brenda Amenson-Hill said UWGB is adding extra beauty to high-traffic areas.

“Both the rooftop of Student Services and the space where the multipurpose area is going are popular areas and we wanted to make them more appealing,” said Amenson-Hill. “We want them both to look their best, but without having one area out-shine the other.”

Although it took years of brainstorming and professional planning, Gray said he’s glad to see the suggestions of students come to life.

“In general, the response to both construction programs on campus has been positive and I’m glad it’s finally happening,” Gray said. “We are an environmentally-friendly campus that is blessed with the renewable resources of trees and we’re proud of who we are.”