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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Vandalism Behind Watson: Japanese Gardens Damaged

<ugh Carleton students are likely accustomed to hearing about vandalism on vending machines, they may be shocked to learn that there are other major sites of vandalism on campus—namely, the Carleton Arboretum and the Japanese Garden behind Watson.

Nancy Braker ’81, the Director of the Arboretum, noted that there are two different types of vandalism commonly seen in the Arboretum. The first an most common is “graffiti on the tunnel under Highway 19, on the bridges in the Upper Arboretum and on rocks/the paved path,” she explained. Though the tunnel can be repainted, it is extremely difficult to get the graffiti off of rocks, some of which are part of student, staff and faculty memorials; thus, it is highly problematic.

The other type of vandalism, she said, includes “damaged vegetation, carving into benches, and building fires where they are not allowed.” In particular, though fires may seem harmless, they can significantly damage vegetation and scorch rocks.

Vandalism in the Arboretum occurs relatively frequently depending on the term – if the weather is nice, some form of vandalism occurs nearly every weekend. Braker speculated that these actions are “likely inflicted by Carleton students as well as people from Northfield.”

Like most other locations on campus, Arboretum vandalism is problematic because it costs the staff time and resources. This diversion of resources, in turn, means that there is less to spend on necessary trail cleanup work and other restoration efforts.

The Japanese Garden is another primary location for vandalism on campus. Maintained largely by volunteers since 1974, the “The Garden of Quiet Listening” is, according to the Carleton website, “an ideal place to read and meditate.” With vandals practicing their craft, however, students are less likely to visit.

“The primary vandalism of the site has been cigarettes,” said Jay Stadler, Carleton’s Grounds Manager. The garden has also experienced theft; as Stadler explained, “there was a sign in the shelter that was created for us that simply said ‘Leave No Trace’ which is a subtle message that should be loud and clear. That sign is missing today…[due to] vandals.”

Stadler adds that vandalism frequently occurred at the garden at the beginning of the term but has tapered since then. While the now-missing “Leave No Trace” sign was a preventative measure, Stadler says “increased levels of deterrence mechanisms are still in the discussion phase.”

Both Stadler and Braker emphasized how troubling  of a problem vandalism is.

“It is frustrating to us since we spend so much time trying to make the Arb a great place for recreation and learning,” said Braker. 

“What is happening is entirely unacceptable,” added Stadler. Though he noted that most students are likely not involved, he also said that “the one percent of [students who are] abusers need to understand and respect the space and the message.”

How, then, can students stop vandalism from occurring?

A sense of courtesy might do the trick. “Sometimes here we like outreach, education, seminars and talks when we want to send a message. I don’t think we need any of that, what we need is, respect of the land and the space we’re in; old school, basic manners is all,” said Stadler.

Hopefully, students and other community members who commit acts of vandalism will heed Stadler’s advice. If students harbor some sense of respect for the campus and its beauty, vandalism can potentially become less of a problem on campus.

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