Green Spaces at North Dakota State University

I’ve been in conversation with some friends and colleagues on the campus of North Dakota State University (NDSU) as to where the latest proposed STEM APE (Area of Potential Effect) should be located and, eventually, built. Thus far, NDSU administration is leaning toward putting the important STEM center just to the east of the Memorial Union, requiring the bulldozers to first knock out some historic trees (yes, such ecology exists) and the beautiful and quaint historic Nelson building on campus. So NDSU is now circulating a kind of after-the-proposed-planning-fact survey to gauge student interest.

This is how I answered a couple questions on page 2 of the survey, and I also provided them with all of my contact information.

1) In our broader culture where horizontal asphalt parking lots and strip malls are the norm, it seems not only important but paramount to ensure that North Dakota State University protects historically green, recreational spaces at the heart of our campus. Theodore Roosevelt carved out national green spaces throughout the American West so that the American population could re-create themselves by being in and connecting with the grasses, trees and shrubs. This is where we get the word recreation: our ability to return to natural or artificial landscapes to, as they say, get away from it all, if but momentarily. This is another reason why Island Park in downtown Fargo was created, as well as large green spaces on the eastern seaboard of the United States (take New York’s Central Park as a prime example).

2) The Elm trees within the proposed STEM APE are historical hybrids, a variety resistant to the Dutch Elm disease that nearly wiped out the entire American Elm species in North Dakota. The American Elm, by the way, is the state tree of North Dakota. There is a bit of irony at play every time North Dakota State University obliterates, or proposes to obliterate, a piece of its local ecological history. We as a state have so few trees to begin with. Why not just build the STEM building in a parking lot, or a place on campus where there aren’t any trees? By doing this, it would increase the verticality of the campus while simultaneously preserving green space.

I encouraged them to get a hold of me if they want a proper study of their proposed APE(s). This, in turn, would help guide decision making so that the best possible construction solution could be arrived at. Who knows what will come of this. It is their call. We hope they make the right decision.


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