Construction Plans Meet with Resistance from Community and Students at CDA Meeting

College President Jane Margaret O’Brien spoke at the latest CDA meeting on Thursday, Nov. 13. The meeting was also attended by College representatives, students and community members. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)
College President Jane Margaret O’Brien spoke at the latest CDA meeting on Thursday, Nov. 13. The meeting was also attended by College representatives, students and community members. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)

On Thursday, Nov. 13th the Capital Design Advisory Committee (CDA) met to review upcoming design projects for St. Mary’s College. These projects include the Shoreline Protection Project, and status reports on Anne Arundel Hall, the Interpretive Center and the footbridge. While the meeting was informative, students and local community members of the Citizens for the Preservation of Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) felt their suggestions for alternative construction plans were not taken into consideration.

Dan Branigan, Director of Design and Construction for the CDA, introduced the Shoreline Protection Project, including Phase I and Phase II projects. The main goal of the project is to prevent erosion by constructing “living shorelines” along the River Center shoreline (Phase I) and the Route 5 shoreline (Phase II). These additions to the already present “living shoreline” along Route 5 will prevent erosion through the addition of rocks and native plant species. This project will effectively “enhance the environment while also meeting recreational needs,” said Branigan.

According to the CDA website, the cost for Phase I will be in the range of $600,000 to $775,000 and Phase II is estimated to cost $200,000 to $400,000. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2009 for Phase I, and Phase II has not yet been scheduled.

Vice President of Business and Finance Tom Botzman takes questions on upcoming construction projects at the college. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)
Vice President of Business and Finance Tom Botzman takes questions on upcoming construction projects at the college. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)

Phase I of the Shoreline Protection Project also includes a new breakwater pier built to the right of the existing pier at the River Center. Wave screens attached underwater to the pier will lessen the wave energy and overall eroding effect waves have on the shoreline. Additions to the pier, including a boating ramp for students, will create recreational use plus the environmental benefits the pier provides.  Branigan also assured the attendees that the new pier would not obstruct motorists’ view of the river.
Controversy arose when College co-chair of the CDA, Chip Jackson, revealed the plan to demolish Anne Arundel Hall. The replacement building is designed to house archeological artifacts and will be built alongside another construction project, an Interpretive Center, or visitor center.

Sophomore Aaron French suggested the school should retrofit Anne Arundel Hall to minimize carbon emissions rather than constructing a new building. “Additional buildings provide a greater carbon footprint, and we should be trying to stay carbon neutral,” said French.

The new building and the Interpretive Center will be “Green Buildings,” to compensate for the energy used during construction, said Jackson. “Green Buildings” already on campus include Goodpaster Hall, Glendening Hall, and the River Center, resource-efficient buildings that promote environmental sustainability. “Our goal is to minimize the environmental impact of these projects,” said Jackson.

The plan to build a footbridge over Route 5 was also opposed by students and the community. The footbridge would be an elevated replacement for the crosswalk joining West Campus to the Campus Center pathway and is projected to cost $1.49 million. Students and community members against the footbridge pleaded for alternatives.
“What about digging a tunnel instead of another proposed eyesore?” said HSMC member Don Beck. “A tunnel would be much more costly,” stated Jackson.

Inexpensive alternatives proposed included better lighting at the crosswalk, traffic calming and crossing guards for the area, but these were not met with enthusiasm by the CDA members.

Senior Joanna Gibson captured the feeling of upset audience members. “The College is building much more than it needs to…growth for growth’s sake is unwise.”
William Clements, Commuter Senator, added that students who commute to school do not support the footbridge construction.

A conceptual design of the footbridge is scheduled to be ready by the next CDA meeting in February 2009. Community members were exasperated by the lack of information provided about the footbridge construction project at this meeting. “You have said we are going to talk about it in February,” said community member Tom Maday. “By then plans will have already been made.”

“The design process can shape and assess what the effects of construction will be,” said Jackson. “It is not to ignore comments but to assess the issues in a more thorough way.”

Audience members like HSMC member Brian Siebert still remain unconvinced and feel the decision is made. “This meeting was all tell. I don’t get the spirit that you want our input.”

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