Student groups take initiative, band together to preserve woods

Woods Clearing by Courtney Roque3

If trees could talk, what stories would they tell?

Would they be tales of sorrow or happiness?

For the cross-country team and members of the Wheaton Woods Conservation Club in partnership with Outdoors House, the woods of Wheaton have become their personal project to maintain, conserve, and protect. Their efforts will transform the stories of our woods into ones with happy endings.

Georgia Crane, a junior on the cross-country team, commented that during their preseason this year, the team and the Wheaton Athletic Mentors (WAMS) took on the project of “laying a foundation for a course that would make a path more accessible to runners and walkers. We cut back leaves, raked, cut out roots and anything else that could be in the way of runners or walkers of the course. We also had someone come in and take care of the poison ivy.”

The goal of the cross-country team, along with members of the athletic department such as Steve Angelo and Lisa Yenush, is to create a home course for the team to use for hosting invitationals. They also plan to open the course to the public, which will provide access to a maintained path for walking and running.

Daniel Altman, a member of the Outdoors House and Wheaton Woods Conservation Club, noted that their goal is to keep the woods clean by going on bi-weekly excursions to pick up garbage. Daniel reflected that “a lot of people don’t know how great the area is. As a student body, we are incredibly lucky to have access to woods of this caliber.”

This past March, Outdoors House and Wheaton Woods worked with an arborist named Matthew Largess, who located an ash tree that is possibly the largest in New England. “What is notable about this tree,” Dan explains, “is that it is growing in a very swampy area. The likelihood that it could even grow there is very slim.” Together, they cleared the area and created a monument out of the trash that they found. By preserving the area surrounding the tree, this 18-foot White Ash Tree may put Wheaton on the map for natural phenomenon.

The cross-country team, as well as Outdoors House and Wheaton Woods, intends to continue their work with maintaining the woods. However, they should not be alone in their efforts. The Wheaton community must also uphold their duty of keeping the woods around campus clean and respected.

“Unlike a building, the woods are not something we can just rebuild if it gets damaged,” Georgia comments. Dan adds “I encourage the campus community to respect the woods, not even from an Outdoors standpoint, but as a Wheaton student.” In the weeks to come, keep an eye out on the work of these students and possible events that will be held in the future after their hard work is completed!