If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll always ask for a glass of milk.
If any proverbial expression fits the new controversy over athletes parking in the Stadium Woods, it surely is this one. After a long campaign to keep the Stadium Woods intact in favor of a new indoor practice facility for the athletics department, local environmentalists were able to walk away smiling with President Charles Steger’s blessing and the woods will be preserved.
However, with the arrival of the football season, the Stadium Woods issue has been injected back into community discourse and, quite frankly, the debate is getting tiring.
Both the Friends of Stadium Woods and the local Environmental Coalition have expressed concern over the fact that football players have been granted permission to park in the old-growth forest the night before home games and leave their vehicles there during game days.
According to representatives of the Friends of Stadium Woods, parking on the root systems of the trees causes considerable stress to the environment and prevents growth of new root systems that contribute to the trees’ longevity.
So now, even after the football team has parked in the Stadium Woods for game days for the past several years, the high profile of the environmental preservation issue has turned toward more obscure concerns using momentum from the previous debate.
The debate from here on out will no doubt focus on the damage to the trees and their support systems, and arguments will be dramatic and overstated.
It is hard to ignore, however, that by the time the football season comes to a close, Tech will have played six home games, leading to a mere six days and nights, seven if the spring game is included, out of the entire year when players have permission to park in the woods.
Athletics, and the football program in particular, has the ammunition of large revenue and high national profile to exert their strength on university decisions related to athletics and the athletes involved. These talking points have all but guaranteed something will have to give when athletics builds a new practice facility, and those same muscles will flex when guaranteeing the athletes a convenient place to park when the university opens up all parking for the fans to use for pre- and post-game activities to watch those very athletes represent our school.
Without trying to come across as a harsh critic, it’s hard to see where the concern over parking comes from. Again, the arrangement has lasted for several years and only when the Stadium Woods issue was under the spotlight did the parking concern become a problem.
And when, considering the low amount of time over the course of the year that players actually park in the woods, it is pretty easy to shrug it off and say “what’s the big deal?”
Perhaps the best course of action is just to let it be. When the athletic department gets the go-ahead to put up a new practice facility, parking for players can be included in the master plan.
The Stadium Woods will be parking-free, and the community can rest easy knowing that finally, the Stadium Woods are safe.