Complex Problems Require Creative Solutions

Christopher Yahnke

I tell my Biology and Wildlife Ecology students that their primary value to a future employer will be in finding creative solutions to complex problems, thoroughly researching the problems and effectively communicating the solutions, and working together with others to draw on a broad range of experience and knowledge. They appreciate that I’m not simply doling out information that they regurgitate on a few exams for a grade, and they rise with the challenges I present them. I love this about my students. This is why I’ve been so discouraged by recent meetings between the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point administrators and residents that will be affected by a new proposed parking structure in Lot T.

I am Chair of the Biology Department and am excited about the new Science Building that will house chemistry and biology. I’m also a resident of 4th Avenue with Parking Lot Q in my backyard and know something about parking issues on this campus. We all agree on the problem. The new Science Building will be located in Lot X, which is used both for events parking and by commuter students. Those spaces need to be replaced elsewhere on campus to accommodate those populations of users. It’s the solution that concerns the residents.

The solution proposed by UWSP administration is to build a 4-level parking ramp in Lot T, across the street from the new Science Building. Residents are concerned about the increased traffic along 4th avenue and Illinois Street. We have all seen cars completely disregard stop signs at the corner of 4th and Illinois, and there is heavy pedestrian traffic coming from the student apartments east of Michigan Avenue. That is a bigger concern than having a 4-level parking ramp with the noise, lights, and aesthetics 10 feet from residential properties.

When residents inquired about alternative lots for the parking structure, we were met with an adamant “NO” based on a variety of reasons.

Lots V and P are situated on contaminated soil, which would be too expensive to remove. The university also recently spent more than $1 million to resurface that lot. Lot E is too small and the wrong shape.

Lot Q is over Moses Creek and also in the same residential area, raising the same concerns I listed above.

But it’s the reasons that they gave for excluding Lot J that disturbed me most. Lot J is located on the north side of Maria Drive, adjacent to Schmeeckle Reserve. There is much less concern of increased residential traffic and there is easy access to Division and I-39 for commuters without them driving through the middle of campus on 4th Avenue.

Our Chancellor told us that lot was not an option because it was too remote and faculty and students would not walk that far to classes and offices.

I recently walked from my office intheTNRtoLotJandittook me eight minutes. It was also a nice walk through the HEC, past the practice fields and residence halls, saying hi to students going to lunch at Debot. Eight minutes of walking for a campus that prides itself on hosting the National Wellness Conference was deemed excessive by our own Administration.

There was also the insistence that the parking ramp serve these specific populations of commuter students, faculty and people coming for basketball games and other events. This perplexed me.

I live behind Lot Q, and many of the students that park there live in the residence halls and keep their cars parked all week, many travelling out of town on the weekends.

Why not serve residential hall parking needs with a ramp in Lot J, providing covered parking for students throughout the snowy winter. Relocate the meters in Lot X to the eastern portion of Lot T and western portion of Lot Q, leave the faculty in Lot T and the Newman Center staff unaffected, and offer surface Lots T and Q for events parking.

The savvy students now are utilizing free all day parking along Illinois, Reserve, and Maria. I attended UW-Milwaukee. There was a 2-block stretch of Newberry Street five blocks from the student union where you could park all day for free, and if you got there by 7:30am you might get a spot. I had not seen free parking on campus until I came to UWSP.

There are nine parking meters on the south end of Reserve Street. You could probably increase that to 12-15 spaces if that were angled parking.

What if Illinois and Reserve were one-way streets with angled parking and parking meters (I just heard the groans from the savvy students), would we even need a $13 million, 4-level parking ramp?

I don’t want to take away anyone’s free parking spot, but I am suggesting that a more diversified approach be applied to the parking problem.

So I ask the students to voice their opinions about this. Does a green campus and a wellness campus that values walking, biking, fishing, kayaking, etc. agree that Lot J is so remote that an eight minute walk through campus to the academic buildings is unreasonable? Would those of you living in residence halls be open to parking in a structure that would keep snow and ice off your cars during the week?

Finally, When it comes to solving problems, should we demand the same creativity and resourcefulness from our administrators that teachers demand of themselves and their students. 

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