Waves of Change Headed Towards Waterfront Property
By Lindsay Haislip
Appointed by President Mitchell Reiss and in consultation with the faculty council this semester, the Waterfront Task Force has been charged to develop a plan for Washington College’s Waterfront property. The charge that Reiss gave to the committee asked committee members to examine questions, such as: “How should the Waterfront ‘fit’ with the mission of Washington College, e.g., current and new academic programs; academic research; athletics and recreation for students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the campus,” and “what is the purpose of developing a Waterfront Campus?”
The Task Force has gone about answering Reiss’ charge through the use of open forums involving the WC community.
Provost and Dean of the College, and president of the Waterfront Task Force, Christopher Ames, said, “We wanted the main focus of the forums to be to hear the ideas that students, faculty and staff have about if we have a real waterfront campus. What would be the best facilities to have there that would make sure that it’s heavily used, and that we get students in particular down to that part of the property?”
In the college’s 2006 strategic plan, one of the goals was to enhance the waterfront property for student and faculty use, and to increase the property and WC’s presence on the water. WC has since accomplished this goal by expanding the property from 1.7 acres to over seven acres of land on the waterfront.
The college has a few limitations as far as the property is concerned, but overall, the plan has yet to be decided. One limitation is the overall size.
“Obviously, there’s only so much we can build there, said Ames. “There will be some environmental restrictions; we can’t build an eight story building there. Ultimately, of course, with any kind of project, we don’t have limitless funds. The goal for this would be to primarily rely on money that is raised through a fund raising campaign.”
The property is .9 miles from campus, so WC is also looking at different methods of transportation to get students and faculty down to the waterfront.
“Everything from bicycles, to the rails to trails project, to the possibility of a shuttle, has been discussed,” said Ames.
During one of the forums, SGA President Andrew Antonio voiced his opinion of what he would like to see on the property.
“The developed property should represent and appeal to the student body as a whole, not just a select few constituencies,” said Antonio. We certainly need a new boathouse on the Waterfront, but one with amenities that will both attract prospective students and emphasize the defining geographical characteristic of our school, the Chester River.”
Antonio also said that “a multi-story boathouse would be ideal. It should cater to everyone in our community; students, alumni, faculty, Chestertown residents, etc. I’d like to see a boathouse with a venue that can be used for major banquets and events.”
Ideas such as a walkway along the waterfront and a faculty lounge were also voiced at the forum.
The only time commitment that WC must work under at this point is with getting the environmental clean-up issues taken care of in a two year time period. The college has a $400,000 grant from the EPA that has a two year window on it. It is unknown at this point when construction will start.
“Part of it would be, with any kind of project where your dependent on raising money, the speed with which you can raise the money affects when you can begin construction”, said Ames. “We’re in the pretty preliminary planning stages now”.”
Ames also said that “for the project to be successful, the goal is that we want to find the best uses for that property. You don’t want to plan something and think it’s going to work without getting input from the people who are going to use it. That’s the idea. I think also we want to create some excitement about it. Behind it all is the idea of an exciting program connected to the river and then Bay with actual facilities.”
“There—athletic, recreational, and academic can be a real plus in distinguishing us from other liberal arts colleges. The idea is that it helps attract students to those kinds of activities,” said Ames.