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The Daily Tar Heel

More lights in arboretum may harm plant life

Student Body Vice President Rachel Gogal, a member of the working group, said she expects the group to discuss new lighting possibilities for the Arboretum and the area around Morehead Planetarium and McCorkle Place.

“We know students are taking shortcuts to get to and from, and we want to make sure they’re well lit at night,” Gogal said.

Gogal said several restrictions might apply when the group, made up of students, UNC officials and town officials, considers lighting the Arboretum.

“They’re concerned it won’t be eco-friendly for plants growing in that area,” Gogal said. “We want to be approved by all but also help with student safety in particular.”

Department of Public Safety spokesperson Randy Young said the group will look at adding lighting to the area around the Arboretum but that the current amount of lighting is safe for students given they use their common sense.

“We’ll look at feasibility, impacts on foliage, photosensitive plants in the arboretum,” he said. “We tell folks to please stay in well-lit areas, walk with friends, utilize the P2P whenever possible and keep your wits about you — keep your level of situational awareness high. If that involves taking an alternative route, we always encourage them to do so.”

Young said DPS hasn’t heard many safety concerns about the Arboretum.

“It’s not been something that we hear consistently, but there’s been a long history of pathways through there that are heavily traveled in the day and less traveled at night,” Young said.

Coker Arboretum Curator Margo MacIntyre said increased artificial lighting in the Arboretum would cause the trees to respond to a perceived lengthening of the day, which would delay their winter dormancy.

“This can cause them to have more leaves than they normally have, and if there’s an ice storm, such as the one in 2002, the leaves will hold more ice and are more susceptible to breaking,” she said.

She said she can already see how lighting around the edges of the Arboretum has affected the trees there.

“There are trees on the outside edges where you can tell where the lights are because they’re still growing later in the season,” MacIntyre said. “Those are the ones that are between Davie Hall and the Arboretum. There’s a perennial that bloomed all winter long for two years — it’s very well lit back there.”

MacIntyre said she hopes students respect the fact that the arboretum closes at dusk.

Sophomore Isha Garg, who lives in Spencer Residence Hall, said she avoids walking inside the Arboretum at night but does walk around its border. She said she thinks the current lighting is best.

“I think it’s fine to not have lighting at night,” Garg said. “Maybe more around the perimeter, but lighting inside might encourage people to go in when they’re not supposed to.”

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