Several groups of Bowdoin students are investigating uses for land that the College acquired in 2013 at the former Naval Air Station Brunswick. Ideas for how to use the land include running and skiing trails, expanding the Bowdoin Organic Garden and creating space for art installations. The Bowdoin Consulting Club sent out a survey last week to gather more opinions from the student body. 

The College currently owns about 275 total acres and is working to acquire 143 additional acres, according to Government Relations and Land Use Specialist Catherine Ferdinand. The plot of land is located between the campus and the former naval air station, south of Pine Street apartments and parallel to Harpswell Road. Plans to develop it are still relatively far away from fruition.

“In terms of starting to have our plans implemented, I think that we’ll start development in 2020, and that’s a requirement with our agreement with the [U.S. Department of Education] at this time. Those plans are somewhat fluid,” Ferdinand said.

Bowdoin acquired the land as part of a process known as public benefit conveyance, by which the federal government transfers land to localities or nonprofits for public benefit use. Because of the public benefit use requirement, the College’s ultimate plans with the land are subject to approval by the Department of Education, according to Ferdinand. 

The Bowdoin Consulting Club asked to assist with the project last fall. 

“Knowledge is power, and any information that we get about this property is going to be helpful down the road. Particularly from the user base, faculty members and students,” Ferdinand said.  

To assess interest in the land, one team, headed by Phillip Wang ’18, focused on qualitative data, gathering interviews from students, professors and coaches who might be interested in using the land. 

“Based off of our interviews, it seems like everyone is interested in the land and everyone is interested kind of in their own respective right,” he said. 

Suggested uses have varied widely. Wang said an art history professor that he interviewed is interested in introducing sculpture installations on the land, while a nordic ski coach saw potential for future ski trails.

The Consulting Club also sought to collect quantitative data, in the form of a survey sent to students last week. Wendy Dong ’18, who led the team, said they received hundreds of responses and many suggestions as to how the land should be used. 

“Hopefully our results will prove to be significant and the administrators will actually take into consideration our data, I think they definitely will because we’ve collected some important data,” Dong said. 

A group of students from Assistant Professor of Biology Vladimir Douhovnikoff’s Forest Ecology and Conservation class have also been studying the land.  

“It’s a really weird and interesting piece of property. All semester we’ve been taking an inventory of the natural things that are there,” said Lenior Kelley ’19, one of the students working on the land for Douhovnikoff’s class.  “The different kinds of groups of trees, vernal pools, wetlands, stuff like that. We’ve also been thinking about different buildings and trails that would be appropriate for the site. There’s so many different things that we proposed …  It’s exciting that it’s real world stuff.”

The group’s presentation suggested an extension of the Bowdoin Organic Garden, a greenhouse, an orchard, a public park and trails for both nordic skiing and jogging. 

“Nobody really has any idea about what’s going on about the property besides us, so I think that they really care about what we have to say,” Kelley said. 

While the College’s plans for the land are still undecided, student input can help provide inspiration. 

“All of the student initiatives have merit and add to the ideas and information we have gathered to date as to the opportunities and constraints associated with the future development of this property,” Ferdinand wrote in an email to the Orient.