Daily Egyptian

SIU community concerned about lack of lighting near Thompson Woods, survey shows

A QR scanner code hangs on a tree along the path through Thompson Woods. The codes are being put up by a group of graduate students in the forestry program so that other students can scan the code and find information about that specific tree. Associate professor of forestry Jon Schoonover hopes to have the QR codes on 135 different species of trees throughout Thompson Woods.ALEXA ROGALS

A QR scanner code hangs on a tree along the path through Thompson Woods. The codes are being put up by a group of graduate students in the forestry program so that other students can scan the code and find information about that specific tree. Associate professor of forestry Jon Schoonover hopes to have the QR codes on 135 different species of trees throughout Thompson Woods.ALEXA ROGALS

By Shyanne Jasper

A majority of students, faculty and staff are concerned about the lack of lighting around Thompson Woods and Campus Lake, and would like to see new lights installed on dark paths around the nature preservation areas, according to the results of a university-wide survey conducted last Spring.

Of more than 2,000 people surveyed by the Physical Plant about the functionality, maintenance, appearance, safety and educational value of Thompson Woods and Campus Lake, 81 percent indicated a desire for the installation of lights along the main paths. Of those polled, 34 percent said they were somewhat concerned with this lighting absence while 25 percent said they were very concerned.

Results were recently released from a survey distributed in March to the SIU campus and Carbondale community regarding their thoughts and concerns pertaining to the woods and lake. After years of debate over the use of Thompson Woods and Campus Lake, the university community decided safety, education and recreation were among their most important focuses.

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The Physical Plant paid $1,965 to Applied Research Consultants — a consulting firm within the Applied Psychology program at SIU — to create a 121-question survey about the natural area.

The survey, open for about a month, was distributed to 16,589 people and received 2,131 responses, said Brad Dillard, director of plant and services operations at the Physical Plant.

“This survey was created for feedback on Thompson Woods and the area surrounding Campus Lake to see what the best use of the properties are,” Dillard said. “The whole area is used by a broad cross-section of people for exercise, to studying plant biology and to people who are just taking a break between classes.”

About half of those who took the survey indicated they were students. The rest were primarily faculty and staff.

Thompson Woods

About a quarter of those who responded to the survey said they feel very unsafe when walking through the woods at night. Another 35 percent said they feel somewhat unsafe.

The paths through the woods link areas on campus together, such as the Student Center, Morris Library and West Campus Housing. There are no lights on the paths, which raised some safety concerns.

More than half of those polled also said they would like cameras installed at each of the wood’s walking path entrances, while 20 percent did not.

Other questions shifted more toward the public’s thoughts on uses for the forest-covered area.

In response to disagreements about how much of the foliage near the paths should be mowed, 20 percent said it shouldn’t be touched, and the majority said it shouldn’t be mowed back more than five feet.

Campus Lake

The path around the partially-drained lake is commonly used for recreational purposes. There is no lighting around areas of the path near Thompson Point.

The main concerns expressed in the university survey related to the water quality of the lake, with 64 percent very concerned, 28 percent somewhat concerned and less than 4 percent unconcerned.

Campus lake shown from above on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Campus lake shown from above on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Compared to the Thompson Woods paths, only 45 percent said they were in some way concerned about the lack of lighting around the lake path.

When asked about what they believed to be the most important aspect of Campus Lake, 43 percent marked its role as a recreational site, 42 percent as a natural resource and 15 percent as an educational resource.

A majority of those surveyed supported the development of a campus and community-wide environment advisory committee to produce plans on the maintenance of the woods and lake.

Dillard said any decision on actions regarding the aesthetic and safety of the woods will not be taken until Physical Plant employees finish reviewing the 148 pages of survey results. He said a conclusion still hasn’t been reached on how these results will effect future planning of the woods’ aesthetic and safety.

The results of the survey can be found here.

Staff writer Shyanne Jasper can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @sjasper_DE.

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