Susan Day, assistant professor in the urban forestry department, explains that parking on the roots for even a short period of time can damage them.
“When you compact the soil, you reduce the new root growth, prevent the roots from functioning and you create a severely stressed environment for trees,” Day said.
While conducting research on certain trees in the woods that were dying, Day discovered an interesting trend.
“When you look at tree rings of trees that are dying, 18 years earlier you can see that the growth rate went from very robust, to nothing,” Day said.
According to Day, during that time 18 years ago, construction on campus lead to an increased stress environment for the trees, likely with construction workers parking on the root systems.
Today, Friends of Stadium Woods are particularly upset that the departments can’t find somewhere else for their players to park.
“I suggest they park these vehicles in the football practice field. There are no trees in the practice field, and it is adjacent to both the locker room and the stadium,” Paulson wrote in a recent commentary in the Roanoke Times.
Paulson claims the departments involved know how valuable the area is.
“They have no reason to be uneducated in the subject. Virginia Tech has all the experts and resources they need to understand just how important these woods are,” she said.
“I can see why they’re upset,” Day said. “It’s chipping away the forest slowly but surely.”
The group is working with the Environmental Coalition on campus to get the woods preserved so similar issues won’t come up anymore. They’ve worked to send letters to various administration and governmental groups that have the power to officially conserve the woods.
Erica Largen, president of the Environmental Coalition, wants to find a resolution that satisfies both parties.
“Root compaction is very hard to reverse and needs to stop now, without hurting the integrities of what’s important. We want to protect the football team, as well as the woods,” Largen said.
Largen, as well as other committee members, are creating a management and use plan that they will present to the university later this year where the issue of parking will be addressed.