It is unfortunate that Ms. Copley had a bad experience while visiting Warren Wilson College [“Not Just a Walk in the Park,” Letters, March 18]. Due to traffic congestion along Warren Wilson Road, we’ve found it necessary to restrict parking around the forest. There are also major safety concerns related to cars parked in front of farm and forest gates. Our students often work in these areas with heavy machinery, and a blocked gate can hinder evacuation and increase the seriousness of an injury. We have been increasing the number and visibility of our signage related to parking restrictions and will work harder to make people aware of these changes in a clear and professional manner.
Ms. Copley is absolutely right, a hike at the College Forest is not “just a walk in the park.” The hiking trails at the college are part of a larger working landscape. Faculty, staff and students actively manage the land to produce food and timber resources, to enhance wildlife habitat and to provide inspiration through aesthetics and recreation. The College Forest is also a living classroom, providing teaching and research opportunities that contribute to the conservation of regional ecosystems. The safety and education of our students are our highest priorities.
We also understand our role as part of the local community. While we’ve had a long history of open borders, we need to remind everyone that Warren Wilson College is private property. Many of our hiking trails are open to local community members. All we ask is that users respect the land and the few rules we have to protect the resource. As more and more people enjoy the trails, we’ve been dealing with an increase in unleashed dogs, mountain bikes on restricted trails, user conflicts and parking issues. We are working hard to balance the needs of the college, the local community and the land itself.
— Dave Ellum
Professor of Sustainable Forestry
College Forest Director
Warren Wilson College