UWF Growth and Conservation: Can the Two Work Together?

Just like any other university in the United States, the University of West Florida is inevitably going to face some growing pains. With an increasing number of undergraduates and graduates each year, the university has begun to struggle with providing sufficient space for its students.  Recently, UWF broke ground on a new science building in the midst of campus and caused many students to raise their eyebrows and ask questions.

UWF student Alicia Adams says, “The UWF campus is a registered nature preserve; although growing is a good thing, what is the limit? I hate seeing all those trees cut down.”

Rachel Rohr Hartnett also comments, “I’m loving the construction two weeks before finals. Nothing like trying to take exams with a jackhammer in the background.”

Image via UWF

According to UWF Facilities and Operations, the 27 million dollar project, known as the Laboratory Sciences Annex Building 58C, is set to be completed by summer 2019.  The building construction will have to meet all of UWF’s building and construction standards that outline the requirements for things llike environmental protection, site preparation (tree protection), landscaping, water distribution, etc. Additionally, the construction of building 58C must meet the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership with Energy and Environmental Design (L.E.E.D.) “Silver” certification rating. This certification incorporates sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality concerns into the decisions associated with the construction of any new buildings on the UWF campus.

One of the main concerns heard from students relates to the loss of trees on campus, and while the UWF’s Tree Protection Policy states its purpose as, “To ensure the preservation and replacement of trees as a part of the University’s planned growth and development,” is the university meeting the student’s expectations of conservation competently?

As an Earth and Environmental Sciences student at UWF, I was immediately drawn to UWF’s rich, native ecology. When you drive through the east entrance of campus during fall you are greeted with a sea of colors reflecting from the trees located along Baars Firestone Wildlife Sanctuary. Students from all majors take to the outdoors on campus when in need of fresh air and rejuvenating vibes. UWF’s nature trail and vast amount of greenery are all included in the talking points for UWF recruitment, and yet lately the university has seemed to move away from this.  This year marked the 50th year anniversary of UWF where we were reminded ourselves that “At the University of West Florida, we see change and rush forward,” but are we rushing forward to the right change? Is the university making the best choices for growth?  As a student population, it is on us to raise questions to the university and ask if we are really moving forward in the right way. Go to SGA Senate meetings, email facilities with questions, schedule office hours with President Saunders, but do not sit by and watch as UWF evolves into something different than it should be.

All photos by Haley McQueen

Nature lover, turtle fanatic and forever passionate about the environment. I'm an environmental science major and would love to travel the world expereincing all of Earth's environments. I hope to share my love for the world through the written word. 

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