Governing council protests construction on Skelly Field
The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Governing Council has decided that any future construction on Skelly Field on Cook campus is impractical, environmentally unfriendly and insensitive to the field’s sentimental value.
SGC assembled and unanimously voted against a proposed plan to build a parking lot on Skelly Field, located next to the Cook Campus Center. They sent a letter justifying their case last week to make University President Robert L. Barchi and other members of the administration aware of their decision.
SGC is a student-run organization created to amplify the needs and concerns of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences student body. They addressed the proposed plan to construct a parking lot on Skelly Field in a recent meeting, said Shira Rosenblum, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior.
“It was the first council meeting of the year where many of our recent members were present,” Rosenblum said. “It was nice to see everyone come together and support a common cause.”
According to the letter sent by SGC, Peter Canavan, the council’s president, declared that a unanimous decision of more than 40 votes was made by the council in favor of dissolving any plans to expand Lot 97.
“So far, no plans for the expansion of Lot 97 have been set in motion. We are hoping that by coming together and expressing our reasons we can persuade the university to refrain from any construction” said Canavan, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.
In the letter, SGC stated that Skelly Field is an EPA-protected wetland site and that Rutgers should not permit construction on a site that has ecological benefits.
However, E.J. Miranda, director of University Media Relations, said the location of the planned construction is not an EPA-protected site.
“The University commissioned a wetlands study of the area of the proposed parking lot and submitted the results to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” he said.
NJDEP regulates wetlands in the state based on a review of the study and a site inspection. The department determined that no wetlands, buffers or transition areas were found in the proposed parking lot area.
“The planned expansion is due to the construction of the new Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, which is being built on a site which had been used for parking,” Miranda said. “The lot expansion would help reduce the impact of eliminating that parking.”
Canavan said SGC had heard the purpose of building a parking lot on Skelly Field was to provide more parking for faculty members and graduate students, so SGC looked into the parking usage on Cook campus.
“The council got in contact with the Department of Transportation [Services] to see how much additional parking was needed and uncovered that there is actually a lot of underused parking on campus that is already available,” he said.
According to the letter, the Rutgers Department of Transportation Services website claims that at any given time, Rutgers has 2,000 empty parking spaces available and free campus transportation is available from all of these spaces.
As of right now, no decisions have been made as to whether or not the university will expand Lot 97 onto Skelly Field. Canavan said SGC is patiently waiting on Rutgers’ response.
Rosenblum said as a group of School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students, the council supports agriculture and the environment, two key aspects that have historically defined Cook campus. To allow for the destruction of wetlands would contrast with what SGC stands for, she said.
“If you give a little, people are going to want to keep taking,” she said. “For right now, it is a little parking lot in a corner, but before we know it, it could be a lot more and that’s a scary thought.”