As an outdoor enthusiast, I always get an itch to find a new spot to explore or pass that just might spice up my day. It is in part why I run around the city of Wooster almost every day. However, sometimes a slow stroll also fulfills my itch to be connected with the outdoors. Perhaps the Oak Grove, L.C. Boles Golf Course or Christmas Run Park may come to mind for such locations. However, nothing comes quite close in comparison to the vast scale and space for recreational venturing than the Wooster Memorial Park — a park that is ironically barely in Wooster! Hence, this park is lesser known amongst Wooster discourse unless you happen to know the right people, are an environmental STEM-related major, want to smoke a blunt, are a part of the WOODS outdoors club (which seems to be the only official organization that mentions it) or do acid. And that’s a lot of people considering we all go to school at a liberal arts college with a lot of things to do and little time! That said, this underappreciation is a shame because it has come to be one of my favorite places to visit outside of campus. Unlike Oberlin College or the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), we here at the College, lack an arboretum or decently sized park to accommodate such needs. And I believe that the College should take better action to address these lack of accommodations with the land and resources we have at Wooster. There’s more to this urgency for green space beyond using the right tree shading to take a decent instagram picture.
I was reminded of what made Wooster Memorial so important last Friday when my cross country season ended and I was left without a daily activity to do. That was, at least until I was reminded by one of my teammates how cool it would be to revisit Wooster Memorial and take the first-years and sophomores to a place they probably never knew existed, yet is only a 10 minute drive away from Beall Avenue. The park, formerly known as Spangler, has existed since 1963, which was largely donated by the former namesake local resident and teacher Paul S. Spangler to the city of Wooster, allowing this public land to become the recreational park we know (or just learned about) today. The donated land, which I have come to learn over the years is a very complicated thing in the outdoor conservation world, has expanded in the past couple decades since its establishment. Now it is maintained by the “Friends of Wooster Memorial Park” for residents of the city, curious college students like us and just nature lovers in general.
So thanks to all of this history, you and I have this wonderful opportunity to venture to the 400+ acres of wooded ravines and creeks in the College’s ‘backyard’. It is truly a beautiful place to day hike alone, with friends or that significant other you were trying to get to know better. I know for some people it is what I see in my activity of running as– an escape from the troubles and stress of our current lives. And it really works to help too. Perhaps you may have heard of the term forest bathing 森林浴, which is a Japanese therapeutic practice involving simply being present in a forest of any kind feeling and embracing the senses a person experiences in that particular place. Wooster Memorial offers that physical mental health resource.
Yet, why is this not more promoted by the College especially when there is a lack of open green space on campus? Not everyone can get transportation, but maybe offering college shuttles might be too out of the way for the College. Perhaps one can argue that the golf course offers this, however, it is not always the most public place to venture since it is always occupied by golfers, creating more of a sense of fear that you might get hit by a ball rather than enjoy the open green field. It also lacks the foliage that provides the necessary activities of forest bathing. However, this does not in any way mean golfers are a problem. If anything, the solution lies behind them. In addition to the College’s ownership of the L.C. Boles Golf Course, the College also owns acres of woods that are only used for nothing more than a biology IS project or two. But what if there was a set of nature-friendly trails in that part of campus that were accessible to anyone? I’ve heard from some students, as well as long-term faculty that such an idea has been discussed in the past and could be a very progressive move that all students could get behind. Yes, such a plan would be nothing short of ambitious, yet with support of the community such as the Friends of Wooster Memorial Park, the College’s WOODS and Environmental Justice Coalitions we could come together to make something beautiful and, most importantly, green.
As the teacher, Spangler, gave back to his community, we the College could give back to our students, faculty and greater community as well.