Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hey, UA, send the dump trucks another way, not through Old Main Lawn with its ancient trees listed as the Old Main Collection of the UA Campus Arboretum

Please click on individual images to ENLARGE view of May 22, 2011, photos from area where rock wall would be taken down to allow a construction road to be built across the Old Main Lawn if certain UA officials get their way.
For more photos made today at the area where UA officials want to open up a construction-equipment road, please see Flickr link.

UA to build road through Old Main lawn
By admin today at 3:44 pm.
By Chad Woodard and Bobbie Foster
The UA will build a service road that will have an entrance onto Old Main lawn at Arkansas Avenue where a three-way stop light will be placed. The road will be an access to the center of campus for construction on Ozark and Vol Walker Halls. Facilities Management aims to start construction on the road in two or three weeks.

A protest was held Sunday, May 22 at 5:00 p.m. in front of Old Main.The protesters were voicing anger over a service road.

Protesters in front of Old Main, Sunday May 22. Photo By Chad Woodard

The goal was to get the word out to UA alumni and students, said Paula Marinioni, protest organizer and historic preservationist.

“Thursday morning I found out, because I was asked if I could meet at Carnall Hall; I didn’t know what it would be about,” Marinioni said, “I came out here this morning to see if they did it during the night; they have no one to stop them.”

UA staff plan to remove the road after consturction on Ozark Hall and Vol Walker Hall are complete.

“[The road] is a temporary, unfortunate event,” said UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart.

“Our objective is to preserve and enhance our two most historic and valuable buildings,” said Laura Jacobs, UA director of strategic communications, “this proposal provides the least disruption to our grounds and our traditions of all feasible options.”

The cost of the project is unknown.

“It is not fully designed yet,” said Mike Johnson, assistant vice chancellor of Facilities Management, “we will not know how much it will cost to construct until the design is finished.”

“[The] front lawn of Old Main should not be degraded,” Marinioni said, “makes me sick.”

The site was considered sacred ground by the UA after someone tried to place a building on the south side of the lawn some years back, Marinioni said.

Part of the rock wall will be removed in the construction as well as part of senior walk and some facility tunnel-top accesses will be covered by the road.

“We will carefully restore the wall and grounds to their pre-construction conditions, as we did when we undertook the restoration of Old Main in the late 1980s and Carnall Hall in the early 2000s,” Jacobs said.

A big concern was keeping the trees safe, Gearhart said, some of those trees are hundreds of years old; it is the best access to those sizable construction projects without harming any trees.

“They will take apart the wall, number the bricks and put them back two years later, and it will take out at least two trees,” Marinioni said.

“Moving these big trees will kill them, but that dosen’t matter to them,” said Fran Alexander, environmental activist and UA donor and alumnus, at the protest Sunday.

“The roots of the trees must have oxygen, if soil is put over the roots it is a slow and suffocating death,” she said, “many of these trees’ roots are at the wall so the whole lawn is like a map of roots.”

As for senior walk, it is being carefully documented, Johnson said.

“We are currently documenting it so people can access it online. We want to protect it to the best of our abilities,”Johnson said, “we will return everything to its original, and in my opinion, an even better state.”

The construction on Ozark Hall and Vol Walker are slated to begin around Nov. 1st, Johnson said, but the construction will finish on Memorial Hall and the ROTC building in time for classes to begin in the fall.

“In 1871, we got the UA here because of the special spirit in Fayetteville. This was such a big deal that an architect was hired to design Old Main in a Parisian style, with the road of Lafayette ending at Old Main,” Marinioni said, “It was meant to endure time and these people want to destroy it.”

The road will assist trucks carrying large equipment and steel for the renovation of the two buildings.

“They are going to put a metal cloth down, put red dirt on top of it and then put chat on that,” Marionioni said, “It will be 20 feet wide, so students will not be able to cross this for two years.”

This is not the first road to be built through the center of campus, Johnson said.

“There was a road and turnaround in the late 1920s or 1930s,” he said, “we are doing more research on that.”

“We are as much, if not more so, concerned about the history,” Johnson said.

The UA is planning several actions that will celebrate the history and traditions of this part of campus during the construction, Jacobs said.

“The campus administration is committed to historic preservation and restoration to our campus and our actions under Chancellor Gearhart attest to that,” Jacobs said.

Old Main does not only belong to the UA, but to Arkansas, Marinioni said.

“This belongs to the citizens of Arkansas not to the people who are making those decisions,” Marinioni said, “the Old Main lawn is the entrance to the UA. It is the face of the UA.”

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