Further discussions due on plans

By MICHAEL R. BARONE

Recently, a letter was submitted to the OBSERVER (June 9) headlined, “Chipping away at logging plan,” which unfortunately contained a number of inaccuracies about the College Lodge. I would like to clear up some of these misunderstandings for its author and other area residents.

In the second paragraph, the author indicates that the college is the proprietor of the College Lodge.

This is actually not true – although given its name, it’s an easy assumption for one to make. However, since 1969, the College Lodge has been owned and operated by the Faculty Student Association (FSA), a private, not-for-profit corporation which also operates all of the campus’ food service and retail operations.

It’s a big job. The lodge property comprises over 200 acres, and the cost and complexity of maintaining it is substantial.

It is also not profitable. FSA loses money on this operation annually.

Still, despite this, FSA has maintained the lodge and its acreage for more than 40 years, allowing classes to be taught, weekend retreats and reunions to be held, and the great outdoors to be enjoyed by tens of thousands of students, faculty, alumni and area residents. FSA has welcomed these guests virtually unconditionally, so much so that many have clearly forgotten that they are indeed guests.

Recently, two issues at the property have arisen: invasive species growth and disease. Beech trees have begun to overrun the lodge property’s native maple and cherry trees. Beech trees are shade tolerant and have the ability to survive under a dense canopy, unlike the maple and cherry. In addition, beech scale has infected numerous trees and needs to be removed to stop the spread of disease and ensure forest regeneration.

In response, FSA’s College Lodge Advisory Committee – comprised of faculty, staff, faculty emeriti and FSA employees, many of whom are environmental advocates – commissioned a certified arborist and forester to develop recommendations as to how FSA might best manage this property from an environmental perspective. It included the select removal of some of these trees, in an attempt to curtail the two issues stated above.

Again, the decision was not revenue motivated. The solution proposed was to be “revenue neutral,” meaning it would simply offset its costs. This plan was reviewed at two FSA board meetings as well as two Lodge Advisory Committee meetings, and it received unanimous support from both advisory groups.

However, since that time, some members of the community have raised some additional concerns. As a result, to ensure that proper due diligence was followed, FSA elected not to move forward with any of the plan’s recommendations until further discussions could take place.

The first of those meetings took place on June 5 with three of the campus’ faculty who had expressed concerns. According to one biology professor among the trio, in a June 7 email to the campus community, both sides “achieved some important common ground,” including that “some of the reforested areas that were planted with red pines and non-native conifers in the 1930s and 1940s may benefit from some forestry practices.” There was also “consensus that portions of the property should be permanently designated as a nature preserve,” and that a “biological inventory needs to be completed before any appropriate management plan can be put into effect.”

On behalf of the college, we are pleased to see these conversations occurring, and remain sympathetic to the issues being raised by both sides. FSA’s leaders have clearly shown that they understand the importance the lodge has for many, and we feel fortunate to have such a good auxiliary services partner in place here at the university.

Michael R. Barone is director of public relations at Fredonia State University.