The Ithaca College Natural Lands are four separate parcels of land that stretch out next to the college campus, giving students an immediate connection to the nature that surrounds them.
“Nature deficit disorder” is a relatively new term, but the idea is far from new. Richard Louv first coined the phrase in 2005 to describe the disconnect between children and nature; simply put, people aren’t going outside as much as they used to. Older generations are quick to attribute this lack of connection with nature to technology and social media, and though the accuracy of this claim is hard to prove, the sentiment still rings true — students are not getting out into nature enough.
The Natural Lands are the perfect place to compensate for this. Students should take advantage of the Natural Lands to go hiking, to enjoy being outside and to take in the beautiful views of Ithaca.
However, these natural areas are not left completely wild. Volunteers — students from the college — put in long hours and manual labor into maintaining the trails and doing research projects on the flora and fauna that inhabit the properties.
It is easy to forget about the hours of work that go into maintaining the Natural Lands as students wander along the trails, under the tree canopies and among the wildlife. It seems that it is even easier to forget about these hours of work when students go into the Natural Lands to drink, smoke and otherwise disrespect the land.
The Natural Lands are a privilege students have while attending the college, and having that privilege means following rules set by those who maintain these trails. Carry-in, carry-out policies and the dusk-to-dawn closing rules are not suggestions, they are guidelines.
There is also the issue of students engaging in illicit activities while in the Natural Lands. Smoking and drinking is not any more acceptable in the middle of the woods than it is in a dorm room, despite the fact that it is removed from the college’s main campus. Going to the woods to do these things is not only a liability for the school and the stewards of the Natural Lands, but it is a slap in the face to all the people who put in work to maintain the land. These properties are used for education, research and recreation; it’s not fair that the reputation of the land has morphed to be a place to smoke.
Because having the Natural Lands is a privilege, they must be treated as such. Students must find a way to balance taking advantage of the beautiful areas around them and respecting the trails and the rules that come with them.