Land Use and Grounds Maintenance

Colgate owns approximately 1,780 acres of land of which 515 acres include the built environment, 876 acres are protected forest, and 389 acres are leased to local farmers.  The built environment includes Taylor Lake, the 7 Oaks Golf Course, and over 2,200 inventoried trees.  The Chenango Valley provides a scenic backdrop for Colgate’s beautiful campus and historic stone buildings.  According to the 2010 edition of the Princeton Review, Colgate was ranked as having the most beautiful campus in the country. The ranking was based on survey responses by 122,000 students at 371 top colleges.  Campus landscaping and maintenance is managed by the Grounds Department of Facilities.

Current practices and recent accomplishments:
  • In 2010, Colgate consumed over 85,000,000 gallons of water costing the university nearly $1,000,000 in utilities.  Much of this went for irrigating our landscape and athletic fields.
  • In 2010, Colgate used 26,000 lbs of nitrogen-based fertilizer (24,000 lbs on main campus grounds and 1,600 lbs on the golf course) that contributed approximately 21 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Grounds Department is committed to using organic fertilizers as opposed to synthetic fertilizers on main campus grounds.
  • Through careful tracking and monitoring, when one of the 2,200 trees require maintenance or removal for safety concerns, another tree is planted in the general area.  Through this effort, Colgate is adorned by a steady number of young, mature, and old trees on campus.
  • All landscaping wood waste is chipped and used for fuel in Colgate's biomass heating plant.
  • Colgate's 2007 University Forest and Open Lands Stewardship Plan emphasizes sustainable forestry and educational opportunities as an integral part of the management plan.

4.4.1 Establish ‘reduced mow’ areas
There are many areas throughout campus that get mowed on a weekly basis which could easily be turned into areas that are only brush hogged 1-2 times per year or perhaps not at all. There are approximately 30 acres of campus grounds that could be enrolled into a “reduced mow” concept. These would include parts of the old golf course, portions of the Cross Country Trails and Ski Hill, and in the area south of the townhouses. By having the grounds managers identify appropriate areas and reducing frequency to brush hogging 1-2 times per year, there is a reduction in labor hours and fuel usage. The reduction in mowing time would result in a savings of roughly 20 gallons of fuel per week through two different mowing units. The reduction in fuel usage would be picked up through the annual fuel reporting system which is the system of measure in this instance. 

By 2013, we have 30 acres of campus grounds designated as "reduced mow" areas. 

Metrics and Timeline:
This project is broken down into two phases.
  • FY 2012: Phase 1 – Old Golf Course (9-acres) and Ski Hill (11-acres).
  • FY 2013: Phase 2 – Payne Creek (5-acres) and Seven Oaks (5-acres).

Recommended Action:
  • Identify the specific locations to incorporate as `reduced mow‘ areas.
  • Work with campus structures (e.g., Campus Planning and Physical Resources Committee) to get proper approvals.
  • Create signage to identify areas as restoration and climate mitigation areas.
`Reduced mow’ areas with estimated cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions.

4.4.2 Reforestation of open spaces
There has been a great amount of past interest in planting trees as part of “green” initiatives from both students and faculty, so it would be effective to channel these interests into an annual event of reforesting open spaces on Colgate property. Areas on the backside of the cross-country trails offer ample open space in order to begin a reforestation program.  The end of April would provide a good time of the year to host an annual tree-planting event in celebration of both Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (3rd Friday in April).  Given proper support and recruiting, we anticipate 2 acres of open space land per year reforested with trees. This annual planting could result in nearly 30 acres of land being reforested over the course of 15 years. Costs would be relatively low as there are programs available that may be able to help supply appropriate trees at low cost.

By 2015, establish eight acres of campus grounds that are reforested. By 2025, establish a total of 30 acres of campus grounds that are reforested.

Metrics and Timeline:
Reforest two acres of campus grounds annually until 2025.

Recommended Action:
  • Create a reforestation plan where we identify specific areas to be reforested over the course of the next 15 years.
  • Identify the types of trees we will plant in each identified location.
  • Begin promoting dates and recruit a volunteer work party.
Reforestation project with estimated costs and greenhouse gas reductions.

4.4.3 Colgate Forest Sequestration (carbon accounting project)
Colgate University’s forests sequester carbon each year.  The university owns 1,046 acres of established forestland and another 204 acres of forests emerging from old pastureland through natural succession.  Establishing a formal, long-term commitment to conserving these lands as “undeveloped” open space would guarantee continued sequestration of carbon and contribute to Colgate’s goal of climate neutrality, in addition to the many other public benefits and ecosystem services this land provides.

This proposal is to establish a baseline for forest carbon accounting using a replicable set of accepted forest measurement procedures.  This data will then be used to make projections of annual carbon sequestration using established models.

In 2013, Colgate begins accounting for annual forest sequestration rates by demonstrating a long-term commitment to forest preservation and by undertaking field measurements using commonly accepted methodologies.

Metrics and Timeline:
  • In 2013, Colgate determines annual rate of forest carbon sequestration after completing field measurements and estimating carbon stocks.
  • In 2015, Colgate remeasures permanent sample points to either confirm or alter annual rates of sequestration. 

Recommended Action:
  • Identify lands suitable for a long-term commitment to carbon sequestration and develop formal mechanism (e.g., rolling lease, conservation easement, etc.) to demonstrate long-term protection.
  • Pursue third-party certification (e.g., Tree Farm standards) verifying that Colgate is managing our forest sustainably.
  • Complete field measurements of Colgate forest properties.
  • Evaluate annual rate of carbon sequestration using the Forest Stand Vegetation Simulator.
  • Remeasure permanent data points confirming or altering initial estimates.

Forest sequestration project with estimated costs and greenhouse gas reductions. 

4.4.4 Promote Walking at Seven Oaks Golf Course
Encouraging walking play versus using gas powered carts would be a first approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with fuel use. Implementing a marketing strategy that encourages golfers to be “green” and walk rather than ride when possible could be implemented through some very low cost measures. Creating 2-3 visible signs emphasizing to customers that walking would be a better alternative to riding in gas powered carts may help to slightly reduce the overall cart usage. Impact would most likely be relatively low, but it could promote better public image and awareness around the course of the issues with using gas powered carts. There exists a potential conflict of interest with the pro shop that endeavors to rent and profit from the cart rentals, so there would need to be a communication process with them in order to explain and facilitate the plan effectively. The costs involved could be kept very reasonable likely less than $250, and there is opportunity for student ideas and involvement to help gain buy in from golfers.

In 2013, signage and marketing materials are created to promote walking at Seven Oaks Golf Course.