Students and Faculty Hit the Trail

May 6th, 2014 Posted in Cover Story

Hit the Trail 2014 -2The Nature Trail on the CCC Auburn Campus has been called “a small, natural oasis in an urban area.” It is a beloved and well used friend to many walkers, runners and nature lovers. It was recently announced that funding had been secured to make much needed improvements on the trail, and we would like to give you an update.

There is evidence that the land the trail is on was farmed in the 1950s when the campus was in its infancy. If you look closely, you may find the remains of barbed wire fencing and hedgerows dividing cow pastures and a variety of apple trees. The man-made ponds and trails were built in 1978. Through the years, improvements have been made and trails with stone dust surface were added. Large meadows of grass are mowed, adding to the tranquility of the setting. The late Ruth Sara Goldman was a regular fixture on the trail. In memory of her passing, her family members installed exercise equipment on the trail that was dedicated in her honor in 2009.

Hit the Trail 2014 -4The trail is used by professors for education on natural resource management, ecology and botany. In addition, Professor Tom Casella, who manages the trail for the College, takes his students out on the trail for inspiration for their art. Associate Professor Paul Richardson engages students, faculty and staff every spring on bird identification tours.

However, over time, buckthorn and other invasive plants like Japanese Knotweed and honeysuckle have or will take over much of the area, leaving little room for the native flora to thrive. In response, Assistant Professor Sheila Myers has enlisted students in her biology classes to conduct service-learning projects to improve the trail ecosystem. They have discussed the problems of the buckthorn, challenges with the ponds, drainage and general trail maintenance issues caused by flooding and erosion. Based on their research, the student team estimated the cost of making improvements and renovations at $31,000.  Myers has secured a $7,000 grant from the Dorr Foundation that will enable her to complete the first round of improvements being made.  Several areas of the trail have been made significantly larger after great quantities of buckthorn were removed. Trees indigenous to the area have been purchased, including Red Maple, Poplar and Swamp White Oaks. On April 24, students and faculty began planting a total of 30 6-foot trees.

Renovations are a total team effort. The CCC Foundation administers all gifts collected. The students, our future alumni, along with interested and involved members of the CCC community have rolled up their sleeves, literally and figuratively, to keep our “natural oasis” a place to continue to enjoy for many more years.

To learn more about the Nature Trail project or to learn more about their research, visit:

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