The Maryville College Woods remains an important community asset.

The Maryville College Woods is a 140-acre forest on campus intended for the enjoyment of the community. The College Woods is a campus feature that acts as a bridge between the college and the community. Open to the public, the woods are an easily accessible piece of nature in Maryville. 

For students, it is a quick walk to MacArthur Pavilion from most spots on campus and a quick drive for members of the community. The woods provide a variety of easy afternoon outdoor activities when you might not have the time to visit the Parkway of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  

However, in a notice put out last semester, students and community members were reminded of the rules of the woods in light of an alarming increase in violations.

A few notable breeches include “parking along the roadside and setting up unauthorized photo sessions by commercial photographers, walking dogs off leash, and building firepits” all which put the health of the College Woods at risk. 

Dr. Drew Crain, Professor of Biology at Maryville College, shared a few of his thoughts about the increase of this behavior. He pointed out that it is a trend that other parks have seen since the beginning of COVID-19.

“Prior to March of 2020, there were occasional violations to the MC Wood’s rules,” Crain said. “However, irresponsible behavior increased exponentially during the time of COVID.

This was true not just on our campus, but worldwide…This is likely a result of forests and open areas seemingly being the opposite of COVID restrictions as they appear to be without restriction and rules. However, this is not the case, because healthy woods need much management and also restrictions.”

To find out more information about the recent uptick in the violation of park rules, read this NY Times article suggested by Crain.

When asked about his favorite activity to do in the woods, Crain responded that “there is nothing better on a stressful day than a walk in the Maryville College woods!”

“Indeed, when my colleagues and friends need to have a “serious talk” about something,

I suggest a walk in the woods,” Crain said. 

The College Woods are just as part of the campus as any class building, and Crain hopes that students are viewing the woods as such emphasizing the woods as a versatile space.

“I’m not naive enough to believe that all of our community appreciate the woods, but I am hopeful that all recognize the unique asset of our woods,” Crain said. “The 140-acre MC woods are a small island of biodiversity in the city of Maryville. They provide unique educational opportunities for our students and more than 4 miles of trails for recreation, exercise, and respite for Maryville College community members.”

The Maryville College Woods is an asset to both student life and the community. Apart from being a pleasant place to take a walk, several classes make use of the woods for instructional use. In the past, biology classes bird watched and pruned and planted trees in the two orchards in the woods. Associate Professor of Writing Communications, Kim Trevathan, has taken several fiction writing classes to the woods for nature-based writing prompts as well. 

As a liberal arts college, Maryville College is committed to providing a well-rounded education for its students, and the woods is just another way that this commitment is being upheld.

“Liberal arts colleges emphasize broad knowledge-based education systems to improve

our world,” Crain said. “The MC Woods provide our student’s opportunities for physical and

psychological health and also educate many on promotion of environmental health. Thus, the MC Woods are essential to our commitment as a liberal arts college.”

The Maryville College Woods are  a unique part of campus that deserves to be both celebrated and protected. If you haven’t yet, take the next opportunity to take a walk through the woods, and if you’re a frequent visitor continue to enjoy woods safely. If you see any rule violations or suspicious behavior in the woods, you can call the Maryville College Security Officers (856-981-8112).

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