Hush…Did you hear that? It’s the sound of the birds and the wind tossing the leaves in the trees of our college’s beautiful 140 acres of woods. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always sound like that. As students of Maryville College, we have to work to keep our woods clean and serene.
William Stallions, Mountain Challenge Senior Fellow, argues that the woods are “as much a resource to the students as Lamar Memorial Library.” The woods are used for a slew of different activities by classes, organizations and individual students. They are a great place to host events, learn about our native ecosystem, get exercise and enjoy a relaxing stroll. They also serve as a home for more than seventy-five species of animals and as a safe haven for our native plants.
With all this being said, it’s important to respect our MC woods. After all, not every college has their own personal forest that students and clubs are free to use anytime of the day. The simplest way to respect our woods is to adhere to the guidelines posted on the trail’s entrance and online. Remember to bring out what you take in, don’t steal the natural resources, stay on existing trails, keep pets on leashes, and don’t throw parties or set fires. These rules help protect the woods, everything that lives in them and everyone who uses them.
Parties, bonfires and off-trail exploration are some of the biggest issues. These types of activities are harmful to the woods and our fellow students. Oftentimes, messes in the woods are left to be cleaned up by our peers, specifically beer cans. Crow, Junior Mountain Challenge Fellow, says that it is “littering issues that are the most common, especially around the amphitheater in the woods.”
Broken bottles pose an even greater threat, as humans and animals alike are at risk of stepping on the broken glass left lying about. This can result in nasty infections when left untreated, but litter in general can cause similar problems for the woods. Soil, water, and air pollution caused by litter may seriously harm or kill plants and animals.
Parties or gatherings in the woods also tend to come with fire, one of the biggest threats a forest can have. Even with supervision, fires can grow out of control and wipe out wooded areas in a flash. Whether it’s a big bonfire or a smoldering cigarette, fire is incredibly dangerous and should be kept away from the woods at all times. This is especially true as we enter autumn and dry, flammable leaves cover the ground.
Another common problem is off-leash dogs. All pets brought into the woods are required to be on leash for the safety of the woods and themselves. Off-leash dogs have a higher risk of getting injured than those tethered to their owners. By letting your dog run around off-leash, you put them, the forest animals and the plants in danger. An off-leash dog is likely to stray from the path and trample important plants or animal homes, or even go digging or eat something they shouldn’t. Even a well-trained dog can be unpredictable in an exciting environment, so it’s important to keep this rule in mind, no matter how well your pet behaves.
When we think of our woods, the motto “clean and serene” is a good place to start. That’s exactly what we want our woods to be: calm, peaceful and beautiful. They are a place of learning, connecting and relaxing. It’s not hard to make sure we protect this incredible resource. Respecting our woods is as simple as keeping your hands in your pockets and your eyes wide open.