This evening I attended the student forum discussing the potential building of a Decorah elementary school on 7 acres of Luther College’s Anderson Prairie. While there was a great turnout, I believe that the conversation must continue, and so I would like to take this post as an opportunity to briefly explain why I am personally against the proposal to build an elementary school on the Prairie.
For those readers who do not know, Anderson Prairie is a 24.7 acre planted tallgrass prairie that was planted about 20 years ago with the goal to restore the land that was once row crops, reduce soil erosion, improve biodiversity, and ultimately provide an outdoor educational environment for the Luther College.
Next to Baker Village, and right along College Drive, the Prairie has become an integral part of the Luther College campus. Yet this wonderful natural area is under threat as the Decorah School District recently introduced a proposal to Luther requesting a long-term lease of 7 acres of the prairie in order to build an elementary school.
While I understand that there are many benefits to building an elementary school in Anderson Prairie, particularly in terms of maintaining a strong, positive relationship with the Decorah School District, I believe that it is wrong for Luther College to accept this proposal.
Simply in terms of the biodiversity and ecosystem services, such as flood control and carbon sequestration provided by the land, Anderson Prairie must remain in its present state. In addition, the educational benefits of the Prairie for research purposes in the Biology, Environmental Studies, and other departments throughout campus are incredibly valuable both for present students, professors, community members, and ultimately for attracting prospective students. For example, this past fall in my Entomology class, my research group focused on the abundance of Canada goldenrod in relation to the abundance of honey bees in the Prairie—it was literally my outdoor classroom!
Aesthetically, Anderson Prairie is a beautiful place to visit and a major destination for students, staff, and community members alike to go on walks or to escape from the drudgery of school and work. Whether you are hiking in Hickory Ridge Woods, hanging out in Baker Village, or driving down College Drive, Anderson Prairie is one of Luther’s most accessible, popular, and scenic natural areas.
Ultimately, I believe that construction on Anderson Prairie directly contradicts the Luther College's mission statement: “Founded where river, woodland, and prairie meet, we practice joyful stewardship of the resources that surround us, and we strive to be a community where students, faculty, and staff are enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning.” If we truly want to remain a place blessed with rivers, woodlands, and prairies we need to promote the continued existence of these natural lands through joyful stewardship, not continued development.
For all of these reasons, I am against the construction of a school in Anderson Prairie. For anyone who would like to learn more about the proposal or submit comments to the Land Use Committee, I encourage you to visit Luther’s website for a comprehensive look at the proposal.