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Letter: Protecting LU’s greenspace would be visionary

Franco Mariotti says the connection of the greenspace at Laurentian University to the city’s regreening efforts connects that land and this community to the Sudbury that was and the Sudbury that is
Laurentian University from the air.

The tumultuous and sad process of Laurentian University’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process is almost over. For those staff who have lost their jobs or for those students whose studies have been derailed it will take a long time to heal.

In a recent press release from Laurentian University, Jeff Bangs, the chair of the board of governors stated that he wants to start anew and be more open. “I am committed to doing so by creating a bigger tent, one that is more inclusive and more transparent about the steps we intend to take – with greater input from union partners, staff, students, alumni, retirees, donors and employers – to put this institution back on the path to success in a way its never seen before,” he said.

In all of Laurentian University’s (LU) press releases none have ever mentioned the role or commitment that the university has towards the Greater Sudbury community nor as it ever acknowledged the support that the Sudbury community has given the university since its beginnings and throughout the last 60 years of its existence.

The Laurentian University greenspace is an obvious example of this oversight. It was the City of Sudbury that gave LU 400 plus acres of greenspace for the benefit of LU’s students and Sudbury’s public. And yet, today, many who use these trails are still waiting to see if the LU greenspace will be sold for development. 

The answer should be obvious that the value the greenspace has provided and is still providing Sudburians is immeasurable.   

Since the 1960s, literally hundreds of Sudburians have volunteered thousands of hours to create a greenscape that has been accessible to all. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised and donated to create what the greenspace is today. 

Trails for hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing and just for sheer enjoyment have become part of the social fabric that represents part of Sudbury’s quality of life. Let us not forget that the greenspace was also one of the first regreening sites in Sudbury. 

Lessons learned from the science of regreening went to change the way Sudbury was viewed from outside as well as the way we saw ourselves. Restoration in our own backyard is a living example of what people can achieve through restoration of industrially disturbed natural environments. 

People like myself and of my generation who have grown up in Sudbury have experienced the positive change that regreening has had. It is a story of hope right here in our own backyard.   To sell the LU greenspace is to deny what we have learned and to deny the hope that such a space has provided for all those who walk in it.   

To sell the space for development would be an incredibly short-sighted vision of Sudbury’s future.

To protect the LU greenspace would be a visionary action that recognizes a lifestyle for the LU and the Sudbury community and one that many cities in this country would envy.

If indeed the LU Board of Governors is going to create a “bigger tent”, “one that is more inclusive and more transparent” and one that makes decisions with greater input from partners then please demonstrate this “new university” by ensuring the protection of the LU greenspace and what it really means to all of us who live here.

Franco Mariotti
Biologist, Laurentian University alumni