Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Friday, June 25, 2010

One needs an offical reason to be on the property after hours

People like coming to Saginaw Forest. There is more here than just a collection of trees over 50-odd acres. There is a whole "environment"; and ambiance of something that makes the place special.

It is peaceful, it is primal, it is "nature."

It is also artificial, it is impacted, it is "managed."

It is open to the public, but it is managed for research first. It is the work of over a hundred years of forest growth, with little thinning. Its pathways cross the property, allowing for peaceful strolls through a sylvan setting that is not so easy to find in Ann Arbor (save for perhaps at Dolph Park, just one block away).

The management rules for the forest are in place to protect not just the condition of the forest that people have come to know and appreciate; it is also there to help with researching the forest dynamics that have suddenly become all the more important for our understandings of ecosystem function for conservation and for predicting the impacts of global climate change.

The forest -- while a place that can be enjoyed by many people in the community -- is not a public park, and it is not managed as if it were a public park. This means that access is allowed only during the public-access hours, which are from 6AM to 6PM (as opposed to dawn to dusk in Ann Arbor parks). The public has 12 hours during which they can access the 80 acres that is Saginaw Forest. True, these 12 hours do coincide with the 8 hours of a normal working day, but that still means that one has 4 hours outside work during which one can potentially access the forest. If one wishes to use the forest outside of these hours, you must have an official reason for being in the forest, such as conducting officially sanctioned research, or attending an officially sanctioned event. Without an official reason for being in the forest, one will be asked to leave immediately; failure to do so will result in a report to the University's DPS. This isn't reactionary, but is merely following procedure, and is similar to what would happen if one were discovered in any other University of Michigan facility after-hours and without a reason for being there.

Balancing the various uses of the forest -- for the public and for research -- will always take place. However, confrontation against the posted rules to the caretaker, especially when one is caught breaking the rules, will not change the nature of the rules. Insults and threats to the caretaker, especially when those rules are being enforced, will also not change the rules or their enforcement. If one does not like the rules, then one is always welcome to address the proper chain of command to get them changed (and arguing with the caretaker's enforcement of the rules is not the proper way of addressing the chain of command). It is the job of the caretaker to enforce the rules, and while the caretaker does have input to possible changes to the management of the forest, it is not the caretaker's job to change the rules to meet the requirements for each user.

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