Bishop Woods: A Growing Social Space

Bishop Woods, a wooded area on Miami University’s campus, has fallen into disrepair with broken sidewalks and dead, diseased vegetation. Many invasive species have overgrown and choked out the original native plants. All of this comes as the result of a series of questionable choices regarding how this area should have been maintained. In the past, it was subject to near-destruction when campus administration decided to mow all of the undergrowth and then it was later neglected in the wake of a budgetary crisis. As such, the woods are now the unfortunate product of neglect and mismanagement. It is a place where invasive species were allowed to grow unchecked and sidewalks were left to disintegrate.

With the recent addition of the Armstrong Student Center and the widening of sidewalks on Patterson Avenue, the Bishop Woods paths have become increasingly well-traveled.

Vincent Cirrito, MU landscape architect, has been working on a restoration project for the past three years. His plans for renovation intend to address the need for a more safe and walkable environment, Cirrito said. Eco-efficient lighting will be installed along the new pathways which will light the way for pedestrians at night and then dim by 50% when movement is not detected. The paths themselves will be laid out in manner conducive to the majority flow of foot traffic. The new planting is slated to include 40 native species which will be reintroduced to the area and placed in such a way that there is an area of visual interest year-round.

New growth and renovation in the Bishop Woods will allow greater and more frequent use of the space. A team of biologists and other authorities are working closely to ensure that the project is ecologically sound as well. The revitalizations hope to return the natural beauty of the historic site so that students and faculty can once again walk safely in the midst of healthy, vibrant trees and flowers.

Cirrito said his goal for this project was to, “create those unique spaces that people want to sit down in.”

By activating the natural beauty of this place once again there is a hope that the Bishop Woods will become a new area for socializing completely separate from the hard lines and monotonous quadrangles of the university—a new oasis of green in the red brick grind of every day.

You can read the architects’ plans and view the layout by clicking on the link below:

Bishop Woods Planned Layout (1)

2 comments

  1. Very nicely written article, but there are several inaccuracies. While there are some invasive plants in Bishop Woods, they have not been unchecked. In most of Bishop Woods, the invasive plants, primarily Amur honeysuckle, had been removed, due to annual invasive plant removals. These volunteer activities, coordinated by Greenhouse Manager Jack Keegan, involved students, faculty, and family members. A few corners of the Woods still had honeysuckle, and honeysuckle seedlings continue to germinate, but I would estimate the invasive plant cover had been reduced 80-90% over the past several years.
    Bishop Woods has not been neglected. Native plants have been planted there, most recently by Honors student and Botany major Jillian Hertzberg (2011), as part of her 2011 Honors thesis.
    While the project underway in Bishop Woods will provide new wide sidewalks with dark-friendly lighting, your story omitted the two biggest impacts of the project:
    1) Planting grass in a large central oval and along many of the new paths. This grass, unlike the native forest floor vegetation there now, will need to be mowed. In addition, the grass will spread into adjacent areas of the Woods, where it will compete with native plants.
    2) Cutting of many of the small, healthy trees in order to create open vistas. While some trees need to be cut in order to route the new paths, the Plan calls for additional cutting. Not only is this unnecessary, but it impedes the natural regeneration of the forest, as some of those small trees will grow to be the canopy trees for future generations of Miami students. Leaving more trees in place will increase shade on the forest floor, slowing growth of honeysuckle and other invasive plants.
    The story contains a misleading passage, “A team of biologists and other authorities are working closely to ensure that the project is ecologically sound.” The Plan was presented to members of the Bachelor Reserve and other Natural Areas Committee, which includes many biologists, in February. While we liked some features of the Plan, we expressed many concerns, including the two listed above. The Plan was revised slightly, to somewhat scale back the planting of grass, but the revised Plan was never approved by the Committee. The Plan could be made more ecologically sound at this point, by greatly scaling back the planting of grass, but the planners have so far been resistant to do this.

    • Thank you for sharing this information with us! We are aware of the controversy about the planting of grass, and hope to have an article up shortly about the petition started by students in opposition to the plan.

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