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New plan for Suicide Ridge in the works

Miles Kovarik, staff writer

A plan led by Professor Dave Ellum to call Suicide Ridge a “late-successional reserve” is in motion. The plan would limit the access of community members to the trail in order to use the ridge more for educational purposes.

A plan led by Professor Dave Ellum to call Suicide Ridge a “late-successional reserve” is in motion. The plan would limit the access of community members to the trail in order to use the ridge more for educational purposes.

Professor of Sustainable Forestry Dave Ellum is leading an effort, hopefully with the assistance of students, to limit the number of people from outside the Warren Wilson community on Suicide Ridge in order to designate the Ridge as a “late successional reserve.” According to Biology Online, a late successional reserve is “an area of forest where the management objective is to protect and enhance conditions of late successional and old-growth forest ecosystems.”
Ellum explained the reason this project needs the attention of the students.

“I need students to stop building fires and camping on the ridge,” he said. “There are rare plants that are fragile, and people’s activity may destroy parts of the ecology system that is present on the ridge.”

Ellum, who arrived at Wilson in 2007, presented his ideas at a Student Caucus meeting on Nov. 18. Ellum explained how Suicide Ridge is an older forest that has many plant species and is part of a larger piece of forest that extends all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. His concern about the ridge is that overuse will cause damage to plant species, and he is advocating that we leave it alone. He intends to transform the activity of the ridge from recreation into more of a focus on learning. His goal is to classify the ridge and limit hikers from outside of the campus so that only students, faculty, and staff can use it for educational purposes and hiking.

Ellum’s response about the Student Caucus meeting was that the Caucus body asked great questions about his plans, and that the group always tried to find a “problem with his plan, a kink in his armor.” He was grateful for that. He explained how it was important for him to go to the students to announce his plans because he believes cooperation between students and professors on this issue is necessary. Ellum believed that one thing students may have misconstrued at the Student Caucus meeting was that he was interested in closing the trails just so that rich prospective donors could walk on them.

“I am not an elitist,” he explained. “My land ethic tells me that there are times when the rights and needs of the land take priority over the rights and needs of people.”

Junior Clancy Harris, Caucus Co-Convener, responded to Ellum.

“I think it is elitist that we are closing off the trails to only those who can pay the high tuition,” Harris said. “I am not saying that Dave Ellum is an elitist, just that the school would be elitist to pursue that sort of policy.”

Ellum explained that there would be a sign that reads something to the effect of “Ecological Reserve, Please Stay Out.”

Ellum explained how Red’s cabin could stay and that hiking is fine, but activities such as building fires, cutting down trees, and constructing cabins need to cease for the ridge to remain in good condition. Ellum wanted to make sure that any student who has a question knows he is interested in talking directly with them. Email him at dellum@warren-wilson.edu or visit him at his office in Morse.

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