Students, faculty petition to save McCarty Woods Conservation Area

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Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:44 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -In December, the University of Florida released their 2020-2030 master plan, which was approved by the board of trustees. The plan includes a recommended change of land use for McCarty Woods Conservation Area.

This idea intends to create more density and a more walkable campus on the Eastern third of campus, according to UF Director of planning, Linda Dixon. “We are trying to provide more opportunities for access and collaboration. Trying to avoid having to put academic and research buildings, say on the West side of Lake Alice,” said Dixon.

The plan doesn’t mention a specific building project or date, just that the site is identified for future academic and research buildings.

The woods are located on the corner of Newell Drive and Museum Road, a prime location in the middle of campus. Students and faculty both feel that the location is a prime reason as to why the woods should remain.

“It’s so convenient for us,” said Biology Professor Jack Putz. “If we’re teaching in Newins-Ziegler, it’s 100 steps that way. McCarty is 100 steps that way. Bartram-Carr is just over the across the road there. And in a 50 minute class, if something comes up and I wanna take the students out here, we can just march out here.”

“As a student being on campus, living in Gainesville, kind of the everyday busy schedule that most students have, it’s nice to have this area so close to the Reitz union,” said Chris Saley, a Senior studying forest resources and conservation. “It’s so close to a lot of the buildings where you can just kind of slip away for a little bit.”

Professor Putz feels that a lot of the people making the decisions truly don’t know how important the woods are.

“One of the problems is that planners see this as unused space, whereas it’s intensively used,” said Putz. “They also think that, oh, we’re only going to take half of it. But with natural areas, when you split them in half, you don’t lose half the value, you lose way more than that.”

The plan intends to use 2 out of the 3 acres of the woods for the new building. Dixon adds she understands the frustration people have with the plans.

“It’s important to understand that there are a lot of spaces, space types that we need on campus for research, for housing, for performance and exhibit that we simply do not have,” Dixon said “And that we need to have to be that top 5 university we strive for.”

Saley feels there are multiple other locations on campus that would better suit the building. He adds his concern that many of the professors and students were unaware of the idea being considered until it was already announced.

“It kinda almost felt like it was happening behind the scenes and then one day we’re going to show up and there’s construction going on and I didn’t like that,” said Saley. “So we started the petition and we’ve got a lot of support so far and we’re looking to gain the momentum, take it up to the board and see what we can do about saving McCarty woods.”

Between a few petitions, there are already over 10,000 signatures.

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