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Bick nature trails at SMC fenced off

Laura Baumgartner | Friday, September 22, 2006

The nature trails that once offered Saint Mary’s College and the surrounding community unique access to local wooded areas – for educational and personal benefits – have been blocked off this fall following the construction of a new fence that prevents access to the paths. The city of South Bend has undergone construction of a new sewer line in the woods behind the Saint Mary’s campus, which has resulted in the closing of the Bick Nature Area, facilities director Bill Hambling said. The Bick Nature Area was named after two former biology professors – George and Juanda Bick – who created the nature trails and used the area as an instructional aid for students in their classes, according to the Saint Mary’s website. The fence around the nature area was installed during late summer and the area was closed to users beginning in September, Hambling said. The city will “be using heavy equipment, and a concern for the safety of everyone necessitated the closing of the trails,” while construction of the sewer system is in progress. “However, special consideration was granted to certain faculty and students to continue their academic activities in the woods,” Hambling said.Biology professors Dr. Richard Jensen and Dr. Doris Watt are two of the professors who have been permitted continued access to the trails. Chair of the biology department Dr. Thomas Platt said the professors were granted access on a “limited basis for educational purposes.”Platt said Jensen has been using the nature area “to study the local flora for more than two decades” as part of the field botany class he teaches. Watt “is working with students to document seasonal changes along the nature trail with the goal of providing an on-line pictorial guide,” he said. Due to the construction taking place, Jensen said he is no longer sure if he will venture into the woods with his class. However, according to Jensen, Watt will continue to access the trails to conduct field work with students.The decision to construct the fence and close the trails during construction was made by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. “We are grateful to the [Sisters] for recognizing the educational value of the nature area and allowing our faculty to continue to use this resource while construction is underway,” Platt said.Saint Mary’s security is in charge of regulating and enforcing the closure of the nature area. Jensen said, “access must be arranged through [security], who must be on hand to unlock the gates and then lock gates, both coming and going.”Hambling said the trails will be closed throughout the construction period, but the area is expected to be reopened to all users in January.