WMU puts Goldsworth Valley development on hold after outcry

Apr 16, 2013

Goldsworth Valley Woods
Credit WMUK


Western Michigan University President John Dunn says a proposed new dining facility in Goldsworth Valley is on hold. Dunn made the announcement in an e-mail to the campus community Tuesday. 

The proposed new dining facility had caused controversy because it would have required the removal of more than 500 trees. Nearly 1,200 hundred people registered their opposition to the project through an on-line petition

One of the organizers of the on-line petition Olivia Walser told WMUK that she is happy with the result. Walser says she and other students felt that Western was not living up to its reputation for sustainability. She says the petition drive started with a goal of 500 signatures, but she increased it as more people joined. 

Walser says she recognizes that Dunn's decision was a "hard one to make." But she says it shows that students and the community were able to hold the university accountable. 

In his e-mail, Dunn says the impact of removing so many trees was "simply too great for us to consider moving forward with the project." He says the proposal was "not the right one for our campus or our campus community."

Dunn says the university will investigate alternative options. He says the decision means that there won't be a new dining hall ready for the fall of 2014 as was originally planned. 

Dunn's full e-mail can be read below.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

For the past 10 days, news coverage of a proposed enhancement to our 
Goldsworth Valley dining facilitates has revolved around the subject of 
trees--and with good reason.  As we studied the proposed site and plans 
for a new dining hall in the valley and received the final 
environmental assessment by our staff, it became clear that the project 
would have required the removal of more than 500 trees--a far larger 
number than original estimates.

I say, "would have," because we have decided to put a hold on the 
project to allow us to investigate alternative options. Our campus is a 
place of extraordinary beauty, and Goldsworth Valley, in particular, is 
home to some of our most scenic areas. The impact of removing so many 
trees from the environment was simply too great for us to consider 
moving forward with the project.

The site selection and development of the building plans for the site 
followed a process that was thorough, thoughtful, inclusive and, above 
all, designed to respond to and provide what students told us they would 
like to see as part of our campus dining options. Still, the resulting 
proposal was not the right one for our campus or our campus community. I 
know that many people who worked on the project, including students who 
offered insights on design features, will be disappointed, and I regret 
that we were not able to accommodate both the needs of the campus and 
our commitment to sustainability.

Putting a hold on the project means there will not be a new dining hall 
ready for use by valley residents in fall 2014. The construction 
timetable was simply too tight to accommodate the kind of delays that 
will ensue as we investigate other options.

We will continue, however to work quickly and aggressively to enhance 
our living and dining facilities across the campus. We have a commitment 
to meet the expectations of the students and families we serve.  With 
your help, I am confident we will be able to find the right balance 
between service and sustainability.

As is usually the case, finding that balance will mean making 
compromises and working together to make sure we live up to all of our 
commitments as we make the best possible decisions for the future. We 
will continue to focus on student comfort, convenience, safety and good 
health. We must also provide a healthy and attractive environment while 
we operate at peak efficiency and provide good value. Those are tall 
orders, I know, but I have confidence we will succeed.

Please stay engaged and informed and be ready to bring your good ideas 
to the mix when we gather next to tackle the challenges of campus 

Best regards,

John M. Dunn