Sciences building projects to include revamped Rice Creek Field Station

SUNY Oswego’s biological field station at Rice Creek, south of the main campus, will undergo a $1.75 million to $2 million redevelopment as part of the rebirth of science facilities at the college.

Conceptual drawing for rebuilt and expanded Rice Creek Biological Field Station.“Rice Creek is a gem for this whole region,” said Tom Simmonds, associate vice president for facilities. “We want to enhance it, sensitively and with respect for the environment.”

The college on Sept. 17 will break ground for the $110 million to $120 million reconstruction and expansion of Piez Hall, the 48-year-old science building on the east end of the main campus. Rice Creek, Simmonds said, is included in the overall science renovation plans.

He said plans for the 44-year-old wood-frame building that houses the laboratory, classrooms and offices of the field station, on Thompson Road near Fallbrook Recreation Center, are about halfway complete. He emphasized that drawings, at this stage, are conceptual. As it stands, little of the current structure would remain, and reconstruction and an addition would provide about one-third more space, he said.

“The college leadership strongly supports this investment, because it is necessary to provide a more stable long-term future for Rice Creek Biological Field Station,” Simmonds said.

The science facilities committee, biological sciences faculty—including Rice Creek Director Lucina Hernandez—and Rice Creek Associates have worked with Cannon Design of Syracuse at the conceptual level, envisioning a rebuilt structure that will welcome the outside in, and vice versa.

“We’re looking at a real sustainable theme,” Simmonds said. Plans need refining, he said, including a proposal to build an observatory at Rice Creek to replace the aging structure adjacent to the Romney Field House parking lot. The proposed observatory would expand program offerings at Rice Creek as a complement to the station’s primary biological and environmental focus, he added.

When the work on the field station begins, the building would need to be offline for about a year, Simmonds said. Community and campus programs utilizing Rice Creek’s trail system and other land among its approximately 400 acres would go on as construction permits. The trails are in for some new, information-rich signage as part of the project, he said.

In addition to serving as a living laboratory for the college’s science programs, Rice Creek Field Station regularly conducts nature education workshops and activities for the community. Each year, hundreds of schoolchildren, senior citizens and other members of the general public participate in such programs, while thousands more use the trails. Under a grant from the Natural Heritage Trust, the station is open free to the public on Saturdays as well as weekdays.

Field station history

Some of the land that would give rise to the field station was formerly farmland, with portions farmed as recently as 1955.

In the 1950s and 1960s the college’s president, Foster S. Brown, through the Oswego College Foundation acquired the land for the college’s expansion to the west of Sheldon Hall along Lake Ontario as well as the future field station property south of Route 104 on Thompson Road.

Much of the field station land was acquired from the Conway, Hilton and DeAmbra families from 1961 to 1963. The Oswego College Foundation deeded some of its acquisitions on the west side of Thompson Road to the state and the college for the field station.

Student volunteers and Boy Scouts blazed the first trail in 1964. John A. Weeks, emeritus professor of biology, joined department chair Harold O. “Hoppy” Powers and other science faculty to develop the trail system and plan the field station, which opened in 1966.

PHOTO CAPTION: A conceptual drawing from Cannon Design shows a rebuilt and expanded SUNY Oswego Rice Creek Biological Field Station that would welcome the outside in, and vice versa. Project planners continue to refine the design at the popular community and campus natural area off Thompson Road, even as SUNY Oswego nears a Sept. 17 groundbreaking for vastly expanded science facilities on campus.

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(Posted: Sep 02, 2010)