April 24, 2003
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Breaking ground at the Antioch Commons

Last Friday Antioch College President Joan Straumanis took a first step toward implementing the Antioch Commons’ new multiuse plan when she dug a shovelful of dirt in order to plant a new tree.

The ground-breaking ceremony, attended by local officials, community members and Antioch College students, celebrated the planting of hundreds of new trees in an area of the former “golf course” now designated for reforestation as part of the area’s recently-adopted plan.

“This is an exciting day,” said Straumanis. “It’s the beginning of a lot of hard work as well as the culmination of a lot of hard work.”

The completed hard work took place over the summer, when a multiuse task force, composed of Antioch students, faculty, staff and community members, met weekly to decide how to best make use of the 25-acre area. Discussions about its use have been taking place for years, said Antioch faculty member Tom Ayrsman. The task force’s challenge was to incorporate a variety of community needs into the property, which extends from Corry Street to Herman Street and from Allen Street to the college campus.

The group’s recommendations, officially accepted at the October meeting of the Antioch University Board of Trustees, involve dividing the area up for a variety of uses, including larger areas for reforestation and agricultural plots, a meadow-swale and recreational fields and smaller areas for an ecological agricultural area, a campus community garden and a sculpture garden.

Friday’s ceremony inaugurated the reforestation aspect of the multiuse plan. About 10 acres of the area, mainly at the southeast corner bordered by Corry and Allen Streets, will be reforested, with an initial planting of 300 red oak, green ash and tulip poplar trees. More trees, and a wider variety of trees, will be planted in the future, said Antioch College senior Robert Neifert, who worked on the plan for his senior project.

“It’s a significant change. It’s initiating a lot of diversity,” said Ayrsman of the reforestation project. “This sends a message to students and to the community about the importance of continuing to increase the biological diversity on the whole planet.”

Concerns about how best to use the area grew through the years from science students’ concerns over the ecological impact of the area’s mowing, said Ayrsman, who said the impetus for change came from students.

“I’ve been an advocate of students’ ideas,” he said.

About a year ago, debate over the golf course came to a head, and the task force was charged with creating a plan. The group included Bob Whyte, executive director of the Glen Helen Ecology Institute, who chaired the group, Antioch student Nathan Smith, Ayrsman, Bill Hooper of the Antioch University Board of Trustees, Yellow Springs Village Manager Rob Hillard, Roger Beal, local landscape architect, Antioch School Board President Karen Wintrow and Antioch biological and environmental sciences professor Peter Townsend.

About 30 other individuals from various parts of the community attended the group’s meetings and expressed their needs and concerns.

The final recommendation looks like a winner, said Straumanis.

“It’s a true multiuse plan, just what we all wanted,” she said. “The Commons will be used for play, for learning, for science and for beauty.”

—Diane Chiddister