Cady Kuzmich, News Editor
While the weather is no longer putting a damper on college camp activities, new “Posted” signs tacked onto the trees throughout the college trails may keep SUNY Oneonta students out of the 276 acres of muddy trails for the time being. Students are being advised to stay out of College Camp due to an ongoing property dispute with a local landowner over liability issues.
Owned and managed by Oneonta Auxiliary Services (OAS), College Camp sprawls over nearly three hundred acres, which inevitably border local landowners’ properties. Some sections of the camp trails, specifically the red trail, actually cross over non-college property (about six acres worth). However, this has been the case since the 1960s without issue.
Why is the dispute being dealt with at this time, though? SUNY Oneonta’s Vice President of Finance and Administration, Todd Foreman, attributes the sudden change to the proliferation of the college camp trails. In recent years, the trails leading up to college camp have increased in number and size. As the trails spread, weaved and webbed through the woodlands, landowners became concerned over the possible destruction of their own property. Liabilities are a huge concern, especially for landowners who use their land for hunting or timber harvesting. It should be noted that College Camp is regularly closed during hunting season each year.
According to Foreman, a local landowner’s attorney contacted the college in November with grievances over land use. After this initial contact, Foreman said the college put up “Posted” signs and began working with the landowner’s attorney “to create a means to cross the property.” Foreman noted that the disputed property lies between state and college land.
Keeping in mind that certain SUNY Oneonta classes use the camp trails for educational purposes, Foreman added, “The landowners understand and appreciate our need to cross their property for academic and recreational purposes. They want to protect themselves from liability and prevent further proliferation of trails.”
When asked if the signs would keep her from the trails, one SUNY Oneonta student replied, “I do any and everything to stick it to the man.” Another student who frequents the trails said, “Those signs have not stopped me once. Though, I am curious about my would-be punishment if I were caught on their property.” He added, “Back in my day, property lines were a suggestion anyway.” While the landowners have not threatened legal action should they find students on the property, they have asked the college to spread the word that the trails are off limits for the time being. According to Foreman, “a student could be ticketed for trespassing on private property but I think that is unlikely.”
SUNY Oneonta’s attorney, Karen Richardson, is currently in long-term negotiations to purchase the property or a section of the property so that the college would have permanent access to the trails. Foreman had no comment on the potential cost of purchasing the land since negotiations are still taking place. When asked about the identity of the landowner, Foreman replied, “All of my dealings have been with the landowner’s attorney.” The college seems optimistic that this dispute would be settled in the coming weeks.