College receives 200-acre donation of undeveloped land

Posted by Julia Leef

The college owns and utilizes an extensive amount of land, totaling 865 acres. On December 31st, that total increased when Michael and Margaret Roohan, owners of Granite and Marble Works, Inc. of Wilton, donated 200 acres of undeveloped land to the college. This land, which is located in the town of Greenfield to the north of Daniels Road and next to Nature Conservancy Lands, is to be used to preserve open space, among other purposes.

The Roohans themselves have no prior relationship with the college, and were referred to Skidmore by trustees. Michael West, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, says that he believes the Roohans decided to donate some of their land after going on a North Woods tour and seeing how the college used its land for research and constructive purposes. "I think they got the idea that this could be something that could work for them," he said.

According to the college's ScopeOnline, an online source for news and events on campus, the land will potentially be used for study and research, much as the 250-acres that are North Woods have been utilized in over 30 courses for academics and for recreation. The donated land itself is undeveloped with wetlands and rock outcroppings, and can only be reached via walking and some logging paths. A committee is being formed under Muriel Poston, acting vice president for academic affairs, to study the land and determine whether or not it would be in the college's best interests to use academically as it has North Woods.

"Views in many areas are spectacular of this unspoiled land," stated the Preliminary Report presented to Faculty Chairs on January 14th in response to the recent donation by the Roohans. The report also stated that phase I of an environmental review, which looks at the historical records of the use of the land, interviews with current and adjacent landholders, a physical walk of the site, potential issues, records from the federal government, as well as hotspots for environmental problems, revealed no negative findings concerning the land.

"From a historical perspective, the site presents an opportunity for past Native American use," the report says, adding that geologists, biologists, botanists, environmental scientists, and wildlife enthusiasts alike, "will see this gift as a significant study opportunity."

An additional hiking trip for both faculty and students is planned for the future, as soon as the ground becomes firm and the snow melts away, bettering the conditions for such an excursion. Once the date is determined, an announcement will be made to the college concerning a tour of the new property, giving people the opportunity to see the land for themselves.

Riley Neugebauer, sustainability coordinator for the college, said that the college is in the process of determining how the new land addition will best benefit students and faculty. "The Roohans' donated the property because they felt that Skidmore College would be a great recipient, for tax purposes, and because they knew it would be a benefit to the college and its students given its location and proximity to existing college land," she said.

"We're very appreciative that the family gave this very generous gift," West said. "When people do get to see it, I think they'll see that it's a very special piece of land." In addition, West has stated that Skidmore will not request tax-exempt status for the donated land, which will thus remain on the Greenfield tax rolls. He also expressed his appreciation to the board, who met specially in December before the winter holiday to discuss the donation, as well as to the cabinet and the president for their support.

The college has always made great use of its land. In addition to North Woods, which provide trails and locations for academic studies, the Van Lennep Riding Stables, comprised of 212 acres, allow students to work and ride both academically and recreationally. The college also owns a small piece of land which it uses as a baseball park, and has property on which the boathouse is located, which provides storage and training use for the college's rowing team. Students have easy access to these facilities, and that availability is apparent in all of the college's uses of its property.

With more land available to it, the college will be able to provide more resources for research and study to both faculty and students. The Roohans' gift is greatly appreciated, and will be used to help extend not only the academic uses of the land, but the natural beauty of it as well.

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