Monday, May 6, 2019

#126 / In The Ecotone

James Clifford, Emeritus Professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has written a beautiful book, In The Ecotone, available from the Bay Tree Bookstore at UCSC, and from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and probably from elsewhere, too. 

Clifford's book is an impassioned song of love to the UCSC campus, and particularly to its both stunning and subtle physical beauty. The book celebrates everything that makes the campus such a special place. Clifford's book has been published as the campus teeters on the brink of a repudiation of one of the central commitments made by the University in the very early 1960s, when the Cowell Ranch was initially selected and then developed as the site of the University's then-new campus. 

As Clifford explains in the book, "the earliest plans for the university placed it in the meadow. Construction there would probably have been simpler and less expensive ... Initial sketches show a rather conventional campus ..." A picture of the meadow appears above. Reknowned landscape architect "Thomas Church argued against building in the meadow, a perspective quickly accepted by the planning team, and after some debate, by the Regents. The whole operation was moved uphill, into the ecotone and the forest."

As Robert Frost might have said, "and that has made all the difference."

A little over fifty years after the decision to reject filling the meadow with buildings, retiring Chancellor George Blumenthal has done everything he can to reverse the committment insisted upon by the founders. Instead of celebrating the splendor of the campus, which the preservation of the open meadow as its entryway accomplishes automatically, Blumenthal has decided that a rather conventional and undistinguished residential development should be the first view that most visitors will have of the campus as they come through the Main Gate:

Current view, from the project EIR
Chancellor Blumenthal's proposal, from the project EIR

Those who use the West Gate entry will see, perhaps even worse, high-rise apartment buildings that conjure up a vision of a dense, urban downtown: 

The "Blumenthal blunder," as it will surely always be remembered, if construction moves ahead, is being challenged in court. You can get more information by clicking this link for a news story about the lawsuits. 

If you would like to join in the fight to protect and preserve the meadow (and to maintain the vision that has defined the physical development of the UCSC campus from its very beginnings), you can click the link for a connection to the East Meadow Action Committee. More stunning pictures are available from the EMAC website. 

Image Credits:
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