The Ithaca College Natural Lands’ caretakers are looking to implement a management plan this year that would set guidelines that caretakers can consult when making decisions about how to run the land.
There will be no change to the way the natural lands are run, but the management plan will provide a concrete document that can be consulted when making decisions in the future. It includes five key values that caretakers will go by: education, research, preservation, recreation and economic production.
Students can access the natural lands from three marked points: behind Boothroyd Hall, behind the Terraces and by the Towers parking lot.
Senior Amber Zadrozny said the plan will give more order to the way the natural lands are run.
“Instead of doing kind of like ad hoc and figuring things out as we go, we would have some sort of management goals which we could look at so that, as time goes on, we could constantly refer back to them and cite them as reasons why we do certain things.”
Jake Brenner, co-chair of the college’s natural land committee, said though no voting or ratification will occur, the proposal will be put before the IC Natural Lands committee and the office of Carl Sgrecci, vice president of finance and administration, as a courtesy. When the committee has given its seal of approval, caretakers will begin to live by the plan.
Zadrozny said Ithaca community members will likely see little change when they use the natural lands.
The management proposal is special in that it was drafted by students in an environmental studies class called Landscapes and Landscape Change. Zadrozny, who was in the class, said students visited neighboring conservation lands to see how they are run to get ideas for Ithaca’s own land.
Other changes include an intern training program, in which younger students will shadow current interns so they can take over when the interns graduate, and a student steward program. Student stewards monitor changes in the trails and are trained to identify invasive and native plant species.
Bella Ciabattoni, the invasive species intern, said those in charge of the natural lands will be using a new mapping protocol to track the invasive Japanese stiltgrass.
Zadrozny said students are invited to explore the natural lands from sunup to sundown. There is a self-guided nature trail with brochures that help navigate the area. Ciabattoni said the lands can act as an escape for visitors.
“Sometimes you just need to escape from buildings and asphalt and just get back into nature,” Ciabattoni said.
In addition to serving as an outdoor classroom for environmental studies, biology and outdoor adventure leadership majors, Brenner said the Natural Lands are a distinctive part of the Ithaca experience.
“I like to think this is a major draw for students,” Brenner said. “To have a protected area system that’s right here on campus, that’s so flexible in terms of its use and offerings — we do everything from gardening to cross-country running up there — that’s a unique experience. In a lot of ways it’s like an educational playground where you can really go out there and find whatever it is you like to do.”