Thompson Woods worries all bark, no bite

Nature enthusiasts who have noticed a thinning in the Thompson Woods no longer need to worry about the campus staple.

The 10-acre forested area on campus, remains in good shape, despite storms and fires which have left campus community worried about the forest.

Cheyenne Adams, a sophomore from Normal studying zoology, watches a turtle Tuesday in a clearing in Thompson Woods. When deciding to come to SIU, Adams said one of the biggest appeals to her was the woods. “If this had been a park with benches and a mowed lawn I wouldn’t have been nearly as excited,” she said, “this turtle wouldn’t even be here if this was a park.” Sarah Gardner Daily Egyptian

Charles Ruffner, an associate professor in the department of forestry and a member of the Forest Resource Management and Urban Forestry, said the woods have come a long way since May 2009, when a storm destroyed portions of the woods.

Since the storm, Ruffner said SIUC Plant & Service Operations maintains a complete inventory of trees to watch development and monitor what work needs to be done.

He said he does not think people should be worried about the state of the woods, and it seems unlikely the trees will be torn down for a park, as rumors
have suggested.

Ruffner said trees die every day in the forest, and removal is necessary for the upkeep of Thompson Woods.

He said it is hard to compare Thompson Woods to how it used to be because there is virtually no evidence the woods have declined during the years.

Ruffner said the largest issue concerns invasive species growing within the woods, but he said it is unknown whether they will affect the ecosystem.

He said all the wooded areas on campus have been divided into sections that are routinely maintained, partially cleaned or left untouched on depending where they are and how much student activity takes place around them.

Since 2000, Thompson Woods has undergone controlled burnings in order to remove dead trees and hazardous plants from the forest, Ruffner said.

In 2005, the forest was notorious for having “violent deer” that attacked several people before the problem was finally ended, according to Prairie State Outdoors website.

Not all news about the woods has been negative.

In December, Plant & Service Operations worked with student and staff volunteers to plant 150 trees in the woods as part of the school’s ongoing repair attempts after the May 2009 storm.

Many students are pleased to hear their forest is in good shape.

Andrew Heller, a sophomore from Aurora studying journalism, said he understands why sections of the woods had to be removed and thinks it is for the better of the woods. Heller said he does not want the woods removed completely because it represents a huge part of what makes SIUC unique among colleges.

Another student who thinks the woods are important is Joel Konitzer, a freshman from Lake Villa studying pre-medical science. Konitzer said he walks through the woods several times a week and finds Thompson Woods to be a cornerstone to the SIU experience. He said he wants the woods to be preserved as long as possible.


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