BU’s Outdoor Education Campus to Close
New Hampshire Sargent Center to end programs in August
The Sargent Center for Outdoor Education (SCOE), Boston University’s environmental education and retreat center in Hancock, N.H., will close in August because of budgetary concerns, BU officials have announced.
The cost of maintaining the center, which was acquired by the University in 1932 and is currently run by Metropolitan College, is not viable at a time of economic crisis, says MET Dean Jay Halfond. The University is looking to balance its fiscal year 2010 budget, which begins on July 1, 2009, and currently has a $10 million gap.
“This is not a matter of performance,” Halfond says. “Many BU students have benefited by the center’s efforts, and it is a legacy that will not be forgotten. It was simply unsustainable because of the cost of maintaining 700 acres of land in New Hampshire.”
Founded to host the teacher training program for Sargent College, the SCOE — then known as Sargent Camp — was used to help students master swimming and other sports they would be required to know as teachers. Early students slept in tents and bathed in Halfmoon Pond; later, the center’s founder, Dudley Allen Sargent, added a lodge and cabins.
Today, Sargent Center has room for 200 overnight guests in its cabins, dormitories, and canvas tent “yurt villages.” It has functioned as an education and retreat space for BU’s Schools of Management and Education, as well as for the former Corporate Education Center. Since coming under MET’s purview, it has hosted the Residence Life and Orientation and Off-Campus Services offices, the Boston University Scholars, participants in the Upward Bound program, and the Common Ground orientation course held during the summer for new students.
The SCOE also offers an environmental education program for middle school students around the region, hosting approximately 3,000 schoolchildren each year. Corporate retreats have drawn about 4,000 people annually, and the summer outdoor Adventure Camp brings in an average of 600 children and teens ages 10 through 17. Other local universities, including Boston College, Harvard, Tufts, and Northeastern, have held retreats at the facility.
The center also serves as a research base for many BU faculty, particularly in geography and environment and other natural sciences. Thomas Kunz, a professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the director of the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, has been conducting bat-focused research at Sargent Center for nearly four decades.
Kunz says the center has been “an important facility for programs focused on research, environmental education, and outreach,” and that the decision will affect both his research and the teaching methods he uses to introduce students to topics such as biodiversity and climate change.
The facility, with 22 miles of cross-country skiing and hiking trails that are open to the public, has 15 permanent employees and adds 18 to 50 seasonal workers at various times of year.
All programs booked through August 31, 2009, including this summer’s Adventure Camp, will take place as usual, according to Robert Rubendall, the center’s director.
“We intend to run all programs and honor all commitments,” he says.
Jessica Ullian can be reached at email@example.com Comments