Nearly a month ago I was on my way to go for a walk in the college nature preserve when I saw a distressing sign. Literally, a sign in front of the entrance I normally used, warning: “CONSTRUCTION AREA – NO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL.” This was confusing to me because the other sign that was up nearby had explicitly listed the type of construction work going on, and none of the work listed had to do with the nature preserve itself, rather the building instead. It was also weird to me because, there had been times before when there actually was work being done to the preserve, but it wasn’t blocked off like it was when I attempted to access it this time. Before when there was work being done to it, the student body just received an email alerting them to be careful when walking in the area. However, this time, when work was not being done to it, not only was it blocked off, but there was no email about it either. It was just suddenly closed off.
I asked a girl who is an Environmental Science major here if she knew whether people were really banned from the nature preserve or not. She said she thought that work was only being done on the building, so people could still exercise in the outdoors portion. I was about to test out that theory when two construction workers pulled up to the Center for the Environment, the building connected to the nature preserve, and started discussing their plans for it. I thought since they were there, I probably shouldn’t go in, just in case I really was not allowed and could get in trouble, so I awkwardly watched them, waiting to ask them if I could walk there or not. Once there was a pause in their conversation, I asked if I was allowed in the nature preserve and explained my confusion. They reminded me of the sign blocking the entrance, and I explained the contradictions I had observed that still made it confusing. They acted kind of condescending to me, as though I was too dumb to read, then admitted they did not really know whether I was allowed to go in, but that it would be “wise” not to for whatever reason.
One of the signs said that the construction work would not be finished until Jan. 2023, which made me want to double check with another authority figure even more, as that would be a really long time to go without being in the preserve. I emailed the chair of the Environment and Sustainability department, Dr. Luke Dollar, who was also unsure, but forwarded my question to the keeper of the preserve, Joshua Cool. The keeper never responded though.
However, this was fine because finally, weeks later on Feb. 18th, Cool sent out an email to the student body stating: “Access to the Fred Stanback Jr. Ecological Preserve will be altered until renovations to the Center for the Environment are completed. The path through the CENV gardens and the stairs down to the trails from the CENV are closed. Please access the Preserve via the stairs to the Theatre Annex, located in the parking lot behind the Robertson College Community Center between the blue pole and emergency call box. The Preserve can also be accessed via the driveway that goes behind the Theatre Annex. If using the driveway, please be aware of any vehicles that may be present.”
I’m glad to be able to spend time in the nature preserve again. There’s nothing like being immersed in the greenery, especially as spring rolls around.
Jessica Brown is the Editor-in-Chief of both The Pioneer Newspaper and The Arrowhead Literary Arts Magazine for Catawba College. She is a senior graduating in May 2022. She will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing and Communications with a minor in English.