Fox clubs interested in renovating hazardous nature study area

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The nature study area in the southwest corner of the campus has become an overgrown and unkempt plot of land that has been largely neglected by students and staff. But this year, UW-Fox clubs and staff have expressed interest in renovating the area.

The nature study area as seen facing the sign. • photo by Nicolas Arias

The last time the area was used was nearly 10 years ago by Professor of Biological Sciences Teresa Gonya’s classes.

“I used the [nature study area] for animal biology and BIO 101 labs. The last time I explored the area was in 2007–8.  I could not use it for a lab and found other areas on campus for the lab,” Gonya said.

The area is difficult to walk through the nature study area. In fact, much of it is surrounded by standing water, and much of the plant life is overgrown.

The standing water surrounding the nature study area makes traversal a challenge. • photo by Nicolas Arias

“I have tried to walk in the area, and there is too much debris that makes a walk difficult. The grass is not cut and looks unsightly,” Gonya said.

The nature study area borders Midway Road, a street on which many students, staff and community members drive daily.

“The area is also a visual quagmire. It reflects poorly on the campus grounds and is seen by many noncampus people as they drive on Midway Road,” Gonya said.

Renovating the study area has been added to the biology club agenda. Student government and other clubs are also interested in helping.

Almost all of the biology club was interested in helping with the cleanup of the nature study area, according to an in-meeting poll. There has been staff involvement to clean up the area, too, and Gonya is one of the faculty members helping organize the effort.

Initially, students and professors both thought it would be an easier process being that it was probably just overgrown. But upon further review, the nature study area needs the help from not just a few faculty, but people from the safety committee and other important members of the community.

“The nature area is a potential hazard. This is a safety issue that most safety committee members agreed could be a liability for the campus. The area is not lit well and is labeled as a ‘natural area,’ which invites a nature-lover to explore the area,” Gonya said.

Though the project will not begin immediately, students and faculty remain optimistic as the groundwork for the renovation project develops.

“This project will not be directly addressed this academic year,” Richard Haen, facilities director for the UW Colleges’ northeast region, said. “The plan is to bring in arborists from the City of Menasha to complete a survey of the area and provide a list of actions we might take to clean debris and make the space a functional nature study area.”

The project hasn’t started yet because there are higher-priority projects in the campus community to handle prior to handling the cleanup of this area.

The question of who will maintain the study area remains among students, staff and the community.

“Building and Grounds does not maintain the space. It is not in the current job description for our groundskeeper,” Gonya said.

In the past, there have been spring cleanup events and annual pruning clinics that may be able to maintain the nature study area. Were this to occur, Gonya says it’s possible that clubs and the general student body would be able to help. If students get more involved on campus, there is hope that the nature study area could be cleaned and maintained.

However, this relies on active volunteerism among students and next year’s student club body. While current members of the biology club current back the project, some members will transfer out of UW-Fox, and others will join.

“Volunteerism is very low on campus, and this has been a 10-year trend,” Gonya said.

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