Norwich develops trails on Paine Mountain
President Schneider already had a long and tiring Alumni Weekend Saturday. After attending the 2010 Alumni parade, a Norwich football victory, and more than ten different alumni parties throughout Vermont, he didn't expect much more to surprise him during this typical Alumni weekend.
Finally reaching the last alumni party of the evening, Schneider was greeted by the Norwich class of '80. Handing out prints of Partridge's American flag to alumni, and thanking donors for their service to Norwich, the University President only had one more speech to offer.
But the largest single donor of this year, Larry Costa, had a word to say. Schneider was taken aback; "Now as the president, you always swallow hard when handing the microphone off to someone else unexpectedly. You never know what they're going to say!" Schneider said.
Nevertheless, the President happily handed the microphone over to Mr. Costa. And after Larry's few, distinct words, the room erupted into an uproar of applause and cheers, from over two hundred energetic alumni.
Larry Costa, Class of '80, had just offered a one-year donation to the school: $1.4 million.
Single-handedly funded by alumni Larry Costa, class of '80, construction will begin this April for the new Norwich University Paine Mountain Outdoor Center, a four season outdoor recreational trail network which includes accommodations for equipment storage and rentals, as well as Mountain Cold Weather Company (MCW) facilities.
The new center will support a wide range of outdoor activities: cross country running, skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing trails, mountain biking, snow skiing, sledding, and snowboarding areas (without lifts), paintball and speedball arenas, as well as snowmobile trail connections (taking advantage of the surrounding Vermont snowmobile trails).
All of these trails will have differing levels of difficulty, varying from beginner, intermediate, and even expert levels. An educational aspect is being added as well, with signage on trails describing wildlife, geology, nature, and the surrounding outdoors.
"All of these new features are being considered, in order to add to the Norwich student experience," said Paul Bova, Assistant Vice President for development and alumni relations. "It'll be a better organized and well maintained outdoor area, for our students to enjoy."
The Vision Statement behind the outdoor center reads: "This project will create a recreational and educational doorway to the Vermont outdoors, thereby enhancing the Norwich University students' experience."
The donation from Larry Costa has only one condition behind it: The center must be named after Sgt. 1st Class John Shaw, Costa's mentor and friend.
John Shaw was a Mountain Cold Weather (MCW) instructor when Costa was a cadet at Norwich. As a U.S. Army soldier, Shaw served 20 years, which included two tours in Vietnam as a member of Co. B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group. Shaw retired from the U.S. Army in 1982.
After Norwich, Costa and Shaw worked together and founded Worldwide Language Resources in 1995, a successful contractor of translators and rare foreign language speakers for the U.S. Military.
Sgt. 1st Class Shaw was the godfather to Costa's son, and John even "thought of Larry as a son" himself. Shaw passed away in 2006, at the age of 61.
The project, when finished, will be named the Norwich University SFC John Shaw Outdoor Center.
Many donations by alumni have some sort of stipulation involved, conditions that must be met in order for Norwich to receive the money.
Alumni have created requirements for their donations that Norwich can't meet in the past. Some alumni "wanted the tanks to come back, or didn't want women to attend Norwich as cadets anymore. But with Larry's request, I talked to the Board of Trustees, and we easily worked it out," said Richard Schneider, Norwich University President.
Costa's experience as a Norwich Army cadet and a member of MCW prompted his donation to also accommodate for the MCW Company currently at Norwich.
"We're excited as a company to be receiving these new facilities, and Larry Costa has given us money for equipment before; for our 22 mile ice trek this year, he gave us over $22,000 in ruck sacks, climbing and medical equipment, and any other gear we needed," said Justin Hazlett, a 21-year-old physics major from Lavant, Maine, and a senior member of MCW.
Part of the donation covers a new storage and training facility for MCW, at the base of Paine Mountain. The MCW building will be for the MCW Company's use only. All other students will have a separate building for rentals and equipment.
I believe part of the plan is to have students come in, check in their ID cards or something of that nature, check out a mountain bike, skis, snowshoes, you name it, and enjoy the trail system on Norwich-bought equipment," said Dave Whaley, Vice President of development and alumni relations.
Cadets and students alike can come and use Norwich equipment. Currently, there are no plans for rentals costing a fee. The responsibility to return the equipment falls upon the person using it, receiving their ID card when finished.
According to Dave Magida, Chief Administrative Officer, the equipment and trails can be used by local Vermont residents as well. "The trails deliberately connect to the Northfield Municipal Trails, and even beyond that to the Vermont trail system."
"The outdoor center also connects to the Vermont Snowmobile trail system, allowing anyone with a snowmobile to access the Norwich trail network," Magida said.
The permits, excavation, and construction of the outdoor center are considered phase one of the entire project. Depending on how much the facility is used, a second phase has been considered.
"Part of this second phase would include a lodge, some sort of place for students to relax after enjoying the outdoors. We've been considering many design options. But this phase would occur if the first phase proves to be a great success, with more potential to grow," Magida said.
Other additions to the mountain are being considered as well: "We've been in contact with Burton Snowboards about the possibility of a half pipe, or some sort of terrain park available for snowboarders and trick skiers. Whatever the students really want, we'll put it up there, it's for them," Whaley said.
Some members of MCW also wish to establish snowmobiling as a part of their training: "We would really like to see a garage of some sort added onto this new building for us. Snowmobiling has been mentioned, and Master Sgt. Marble, our advisor, supports it," Hazlett said.
The entire project is expected to be complete by October of 2011. The process of getting permits and excavation is currently underway.
"We're checking in with all local laws to ensure the facilities are up to standard, as well as the trails meet all geological requirements," Magida said. "Once this process is finished, which it will be soon, we will begin construction right away."
The new buildings are also expected to meet the standards for LEED certification, a title also earned in the construction of South Hall.
LEED certification statement reads: "The LEED certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability. Achieving LEED certification means that your building project is truly green."
"Developed and administered by the US green building council based out of Washington DC, a non-profit organization, LEED certification includes the rigorous third party commissioning process, and offers compelling proof to you, your clients, your peers, and the public at large that you've achieved your environmental goals, and that your building is performing as designed."
In earning LEED certification, all new buildings constructed as part of the outdoor center will surpass environmental standards, functioning as efficiently as possible.
While the outdoor center project is an ambitious addition to Paine Mountain and the Norwich Campus, it will not include a new ski lift. The overhead costs of insurance and maintenance are not able to fit into the Norwich budget.
"I remember when we had a lift, I'd go out with Norwich students all the time for a quick ski in the afternoons!" said William Wick, Chaplain. Wick, or "The Rev," is an avid skier.
"While it was really great to ski whenever you wanted to, right across the street, it was a real distraction sometimes. Students would skip classes just to ski that hill. And besides, it was so tough to maintain and groom, the skiing was never good by mid afternoon," Wick said.
Paine Mountain also faces westward, a bad side for skiing conditions, as the sun melts much of the snow that falls on the face of Paine. Paul Bova, a graduate from the class of '88, remembers the slope when it had a lift.
"With the mountain facing the direction it does, it gets the most sunlight. We would sometimes go for weeks or even months without skiing the face, because the conditions just weren't good."
"Besides, the costs of keeping that lift there just didn't fit into the Norwich budget. They had to sell the lift and towers to a ski resort in New Hampshire back in 1994," Bova said. "They came in, took the towers down, and left."
Although the mountain won't be getting a new ski lift, Norwich students, faculty, and Northfield residents can all still look forward to a multitude of sporting options for any outdoor enthusiast.
"We want Norwich students to really appreciate the hard work of alumni and dedication they have to this school. If it wasn't for them, these awesome projects wouldn't be happening," Schneider said. "We will now make excellent use of Paine Mountain, and it's all because of one alumnus, and his life-changing Norwich experience."
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