Franklin & Marshall has embarked on the latest chapter in its commitment to environmental stewardship with the creation of an urban conservancy less than one mile from campus. Tucked beyond the athletic fields of Baker Campus and away from the bustle of Harrisburg Pike, the conservancy is named in honor of the late President Keith Spalding and his wife, Dorothy “Dot” Spalding.
The Keith and Dorothy Spalding Conservancy is on the 44-acre site of the former Lancaster Brick Company, at the end of Vermont Avenue. Spalding’s administration purchased the property in 1981, and the College has maintained the land in the same general condition ever since.
The College will use the conservancy to create outdoor lab areas for faculty and student research, public education stations and a small trail system for recreation. Plans also include the expansion of wetlands near the Little Conestoga Creek, and the construction of boardwalks within the wetlands.
“Designating this as a conservancy means that the uncertainty about its future is gone,” says Carol de Wet, associate dean of the faculty and professor of geosciences, who has helped to plan the conservancy’s use. “Knowing that this land is conserved means we can plan studies five and 10 years into the future.”
Keith Orris, vice president for administrative services and business, government and community relations, says the College is in the design process for enhancing the conservancy. Orris envisions the conservancy’s trails connecting to adjacent Dorwart Park, a trail system constructed by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.
“The conservancy attests to our long-term interest in preservation activities," Orris says. "We’re excited because it will provide access to enhanced educational opportunities for our students and for the general public.”
Interim President John F. Burness ’67 announced the conservancy in a message to the campus community Tuesday afternoon. “I have very fond memories of Keith and Dot,” Burness said. “Keith was president when I was a student at Franklin & Marshall, and I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition by a College he loved and led so well.”
During Spalding’s presidency (1963-1983), Franklin & Marshall grew from a strong regional college into a national liberal arts institution. The College became coeducational, the size of campus tripled, most campus buildings were either built or renovated, the size of the student body doubled and the endowment grew four-fold.
The Spalding Conservancy joins a host of initiatives introduced by the College over the past decade relating to sustainability and environmental stewardship, including the Caroline Nunan Arboretum; the Carolyn W. and Robert S. Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment; Millport Conservancy; the Sustainability House and Sustainability Week.
De Wet led a small group of faculty members who helped to plan the academic component of the conservancy. Joining de Wet were Andy de Wet, associate professor of geosciences; Tim Sipe, associate professor of biology; and Chris Williams, assistant professor of environmental science.
“There are so many ways to study this area and conduct case studies for teaching,” Carol de Wet says. “Students will learn about the reintroduction of species and the eradication of invasive species.” De Wet also notes that the Spalding Conservancy—and its history as a brick factory—offers a contrast to the rural history of Millport Conservancy.
Orris says the Spalding Conservancy will honor another figure from F&M’s past: O.W. Lacy, a former College administrator who passed away in 2004. Lacy created and maintained hiking trails through the property even before the College purchased the land in 1981.
“We’re planning a way to honor O.W.’s dedication and personal efforts to keeping up the walking trails, and cutting and clearing for all those years,” Orris says.
For more about the Spalding Conservancy, see coverage in the Intelligencer Journal and Lancaster New Era.