Former College Park City Councilwoman Mary Cook has a letter in the Prince Georges Gazette questioning the University of Maryland’s intent to relocate facilities onto the Wooded Hillock. For more information about this ongoing issue, please see my past blog posts. Mary does a good job of explaining the issue, and I’m grateful that she has added to the already mounting pressure for the university to announce a change of course. I am hopeful that they are headed in that direction. Below is the letter.
In an age when an institution’s green image has become increasingly important, you would think that the University of Maryland, College Park, would not want to tarnish its own with the razing of nearly nine acres of forestland for the relocation of some of its facilities as the precursor to the start of construction of the East Campus development.
The state legislature earmarked $5 million this year to start the process, leaving the university with its hand out for the remaining $20 million necessary to complete the move. There is a caveat, however: the university’s spending budget must be approved by the College Park City Council per the legislature’s mandate. If the monies are authorized, albeit in the form of bonds, what toll will the environmental costs be for the university and College Park?
The university, which has been awarded second place for America’s Greenest Campus, continues to look at what is referred to as “the wooded hillock” as the prime location for the relocation of its campus mail facility, motor pool operations and Facilities Management Building despite great concerns expressed by students, faculty and the City Council.
The destruction of this precious ecosystem — which is currently used as a valuable classroom field tool [and] is home to dozens of tree species and rare plants as well as wildlife — would be a travesty. Other sites have been proposed, each with its own environmental benefits and concerns, but none are being considered as viable options at this time. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking with plans to break ground in January.
We should all ask ourselves: What is the price of progress? Is it only additional monies with the state budget’s already in the red? Or is it the devastation of a unique, local environmental treasure and an environmental image tarnished? Or is it much more?
Mary C. Cook, former
College Park council member