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Saint Mary's University cuts down trees to build a parking lot

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“When I talk to my students about sustainability at SMU, I tell them that compared to when I came here seven years ago, we’ve done wonders,” says Jeremy Lundholm, a biology instructor who is also part of Saint Mary’s University’s Environmental Studies Program. “They weren’t even recycling back then. Since then, they’re taking sustainability seriously---they’re putting money into it, they’ve switched the boilers from oil to natural gas, the student association is the first in Canada to have a sustainability program. I tell my students they should feel good about coming here. So this feels like a betrayal.”

*This* is a new parking lot, consisting of just 23 spaces where the last on-campus stand of trees stood, next to the Sobey’s Business School building. The trees were 30-40 years old, and consisted in large part of native red oak and white pine. “Think of how many tonnes of carbon those trees held,” says Lundholm.

“It was no secret,” says Steve Proctor, SMU’s communications person, of the new parking lot. “It was part of the five-year plan that was approved by staff and faculty.” Moreover, says Proctor, the lot is needed because 60 campus parking spaces are being lost due to construction of the new Homberg Centre for Health and Wellness, next to the Tower building.

Lundholm acknowledges that parking is constricted on campus, but says the university should have offered incentives for faculty and staff to take transit. Proctor says there are no such incentives, but some on-campus spaces are reserved for carpoolers. “Building a parking lot won’t solve the campus parking problem,” says Lundholm. “It will just encourage more people to drive.”

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