The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Students at UMass make their own pathways

April 21, 2016

The University of Massachusetts Amherst covers 1,463 acres with 22,000 undergraduate students; a campus of this magnitude requires well-designed walkways to facilitate students’ daily commutes to classes.

The sidewalks and pathways at UMass were originally designed to simply connect people to the main entrances of buildings. But Simon Raine, the campus designer and planner, says human behavior was not initially taken into consideration.

Over time, new footpaths have emerged as a result of students searching for the shortest and easiest ways to get to class. This has started to change the landscape of the campus by creating dirt paths that cross over the grass.

Mark Lindhult, a professor in the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Department at UMass, says action is needed.

“I believe there needs to be a well-planned and proactive approach to dealing with the pathways on campus,” Lindhult says.

In 1993, Lindhult and two other professors from the department wrote the book “Campus Physical Master Plan.” In it, they discussed a survey distributed by The Massachusetts Daily Collegian to get input from students, faculty and staff about the campus’s image.

One finding suggested that people wanted to see more improvements in the campus infrastructure. “Put paths where people actually walk instead of paving where you want people to walk,” the comment read.

This seems to be the common argument today.

“I think there should be more convenient paths to different buildings,” says biology major Elisah Huynh.

“The areas where there aren’t pathways, where students are like trying to get through for instance, it ruins all the foliage around the area,” says physics major Chris Bilbo.

However, Raine explains how plans to resolve this may not be financially possible, since the construction of buildings receives all the funding.

“Often there aren’t too many funds for the landscape and it is kind of forgotten,” he says. “Do you want to take two classroom out to pay for a sidewalk? It’s that kind of decision. Rightly, the building internally wins the funds.”

Raine estimates the price for the desired landscape construction plan could range anywhere from $750,000 to $1.25 million.

Gabriela can be reached at [email protected]

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