The University of Wisconsin Campus Natural Areas Committee held a public meeting Tuesday night to hear views on the future of the campus natural areas.
The committee is in the process of producing a master plan to determine how these special places should be conserved, restored and used.
“This is a wide-open brainstorming meeting,” committee chair William Cronon said. “We want to hear ideas and challenges and use what is shared as input into the planning process.”
There are 14 natural areas on campus that make up a third of the university’s total acreage. Examples of these areas include Picnic Point, Howard Temin Lakeshore Path and Muir Woods.
University Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture Gary Brown said the committee’s plans are part of the school’s process of developing a new Campus Master Plan, which is done every 10 years.
Cronon said the committee wants to group all the natural areas together as the “Lakeshore Nature Preserve.”
“We want to think of these areas as a unit to get the university to preserve,” Cronon said.
The broad goals for the natural areas within the campus plan are to protect the environment, look at campus boundaries and connect UW to the regional community and world beyond, Brown said. According to Brown, areas that will be looked at with particular detail include the tip and base of Picnic Point and Frautschi Point.
Academic Program Director Ann Burgess, who presented the committee’s biological plans for the natural areas, said she thought there should be little change made to the areas.
“We recommend against drastic change … and we should go slow with any plans,” Burgess said.
Burgess added she endorses the succession to a mixture of maple and oak trees for some areas.
“We want to maintain a diverse forest community by active management,” Burgess said.
The forests would become completely maple in the long run without management, Burgess said.
Burgess said the committee also endorses maintaining community gardens, restoring fields to tall-grass prairies and having a savannah at the edge of the woods. Burgess also endorses making high-use areas as natural as possible but using vegetation that survives foot traffic.
“We need species that survive high use, such as turf grass,” Burgess said.
The committee heard opinions from people in attendance on what they value about the natural areas.
Cronon agreed with an audience member who values the addition the natural areas make to the campus.
“The [natural areas] are central to the identity of Madison,” Cronon said. “Now the master plan encourages this.”
Some audience members also said they valued the archaeological sites, a lack of encroachment and the peace of the areas.
The audience also met in small groups to discuss concerns about the natural areas.
One concern Cronon raised is making the areas accessible to students and to classes for educational purposes.
“This is a precious landscape for young people,” Cronon said.
The community emphasized active ecological management and having no buildings in the areas.
Brown said the committee would share the draft plans in the fall and wrap that into the overall campus plan.