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DECEMBER 2006
SUSTAINABILITY KEY AT CAROLINA NORTH

We envision Carolina North as a model of sustainability, building on our strong record of environmental successes and improvements on the main campus. Sustainability and sensitivity to the environment are core principles for Carolina.

Sustainability was among the list of topics I asked the university's Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC) to tackle back in March, when that group began its deliberations about what principles to recommend we use in developing and submitting plans for Carolina North to local governments later this year. Our own Professor Doug Crawford-Brown, an internationally recognized expert, has helped frame productive discussions on this topic among the LAC.

Sustainable design has also been a major point of emphasis in a series of technical workshops that began this fall to help guide the university's next steps in planning for Carolina North, concurrently with the LAC's deliberations. As just one example, those workshops included two community meetings on Dec. 13 conducted by Biohabitats Inc., our consulting firm that is producing an ecological assessment of the Carolina North tract. Such public forums and opportunities for community participation are vital to our overall information-gathering efforts.

I look forward to seeing the LAC's report and how the technical workshops, which will continue into early 2007, shape plans for sustainability at Carolina North.

In the end, we are committed to being excellent stewards of the land and the open spaces and natural areas there, which are so important to the future of both the university and the community.

Our commitment to sustainability and environmental protection at Carolina North has already begun.

Earlier this month, we announced plans to establish a property management program for Carolina North. In doing so, we intend to maintain and enhance the parts of the tract that will not be developed initially.

We have identified and committed more than $400,000 to launch the program over the next two years. We will hire a combination of four permanent and temporary employees to manage the property on a daily basis. When they are hired next year, these employees will identify and post property lines, map hiking and biking trails, and install signs for trails, maps and public access, among other duties.

We hope local citizens and members of the campus community will take advantage of the opportunity to plan outings around these enhanced amenities at Carolina North. Those may include an improved trail network that will be well maintained, the preservation of an old mill area and the addition of picnic facilities, and parking along appropriate roadsides.

We are responding to concerns from some in the community that the Carolina North property was not the asset it could be because we had not actively managed it. We agree, and we hope the steps we are taking will make this property an attractive, accessible asset to the community.

Our new employees at the site will be looking for diseased trees and harmful insects, replanting and cutting trees selectively, and taking fire-control precautions. They will also be taking steps to control the spread of invasive non-native plants across the property.

We are also considering creating educational programs for interested groups or residents, including public school and university students, community members and visitors. And we plan to establish an advisory committee to gauge community interest and feedback about the management program.

The new employees will work under the supervision of our central grounds services staff, which does nationally recognized work to keep Carolina's main campus among the most beautiful anywhere. They have incorporated the best environmental practices adopted in the campus master plan. They have also helped develop and now carry out recommendations from a campus-wide task force that examined landscape heritage and plant diversity in the context of our current capital construction program.

Paying attention now to how we manage the Carolina North property is an early test in the process of effectively applying the principles of sustainability. We make this commitment because of the great potential these natural resources have in making the Carolina North campus a treasure that both the campus and local communities can use often in the years to come.

 

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He welcomes readers’ messages at jmoeser@unc.edu





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