Author Archives: Tim Parsons


In light of Dean Shirley Collado's November 15th essay about the role of privilege in dish theft, I bring you this post syndicated from The Middlebury Landscape. Horticulturalist Tim Parsons draws a connection between dish theft and the rampant tree vandalism he has witnessed this semester and rightfully asks, "Why?" -Tim


7-18-6. Not a fertilizer label, but an accounting of the fall semester at Middlebury. Seven-the  number of weekends in a row we’ve seen vandalism against trees. 18-the total number of trees affected. And 6-trees killed outright. We come into work Monday morning, and, in addition to picking up the inevitable and ubiquitous litter and detritus from the weekend, now survey the damage as well. I was not writing of it, hoping to sweep our problem under the rug, hoping that these acts were random, solitary, maybe just an aberrant mutation on an otherwise pristine campus, a passing social deviation that would go away on its own. And I’m preaching to the choir, here, after all. I’ve discussed vandalism in the past on Middland, and am quite frankly a little sick of telling the tale. I’ve reported this problem to my superiors, and they’ve approached community council. And I was going to get on with life, and write posts on annuals, the Sustainable Sites Initiative, and put some more work into Turf Battle. Last night, Dean Shirley Collado wrote a piece on One Dean’s View called Plates and Privilege. We’ve all heard about the missing plate problem, thanks to Aunt Des and the great communications department. But Shirley’s take is different, and had me thinking all night (well, until 9:30 or so, I can’t seem to stay up like I used to) about privilege. Let’s let her say it best:

I would like to call students to action to think more critically about the human face behind the dish problem. Think about what it says about us as a community when these small acts of thoughtlessness create a collective problem that impacts all of us in a negative way. This thoughtlessness speaks volumes about what kind of people our students are going to be when they leave this institution.

So, I thought, our tree vandalism is a problem of privilege, like the many beer cans scattered around on a Monday. It’s easy to take trees for granted, and yes, sometimes they do get in the way (I’ve wondered on one or two broken branches if the offender was tall-sick of running into the same branch every day).  But then I cleaned up some of the damage today, and came to a different conclusion. We have a problem of violence. Pictures won’t even do it justice, and even my words won’t. In the service building? Come by my office, I’ve saved a couple pieces of broken limbs. But let me try to explain what’s going on here. The offender (I hesitate to use the word ‘student’, as surely this individual isn’t really learning anything here) is breaking limbs off of trees. Serious limbs. I climb trees, and, while I still resemble the pasty geek I was in high school, I’ve jumped a couple of weight classes. Limbs broken would hold me and my chainsaw with room to spare. Limbs that are not just snapping off, but need to be bent, wrenched, moved back and forth hoping to break 3” of bark and wood to separate it from the tree. Entire small trunks of immature trees not only bent to the ground, but shaken, trampled, twisted and torn, sometimes breaking completely, sometimes left hanging , or lying in ground, waiting for a chalk outline to surround it. This is an act of rage, of violence, well beyond wanton destruction of property, senseless passing violence against an animate object incapable of screaming or defending itself. A 3” limb, counting rings, is probably very well older than the person breaking it off. Monday will come again, and again we’ll go out, willingly pick up the remnants of a privileged life, but hope and pray that no more violence has befallen our silent friends.

Competition Guidelines

Seasoned blog readers will notice that this post is syndicated from Turf Battle, the official Atwater Landscape Design Competition blog, written by Tim Parsons. If you wish to comment on this, please click the title to visit the post at its original source. -Tim


In September of 2004, Middlebury College completed construction of an area of campus known as Atwater Commons. In the process of construction, several basic natural systems in the area changed, and the extensive landscape plan was never fully realized. We would now like to re-landscape the space, and turn the area into a more functional, educational, and enjoyable space for the Middlebury College community.

The Atwater Design Contest is open to all Middlebury College students. Designs are due no later than Monday, February 7, 2011, and are to be submitted to the Office of the Vice President of Administration in Old Chapel 207. The winning plan will be will be implemented over the spring and summer of 2011 by Facilities Services.

Scope of the Project

The area we consider “Atwater” is a quad formed by the two dorms, Atwater Hall A and Hall B, the Atwater Dining Hall, and the back sides of Chateau and Allen. When redesigning the landscape, however, many factors outside of this quad also play a role as well, and may be considered as part of the design requirements. The map below shows what we would consider when looking at a landscape plan for this area, but, as with many parts of this project, you may change or modify this as you please. Please note that while the Atwater Dining roof is still a work in progress, it should not be considered in the redesign.

As Tim Spears wrote in his introductory email, we have in mind plans for improving the landscaping, planting additional vegetation, and creating recreational opportunities. At present, the Atwater landscape seems like a vast unfinished open space. We would like to see the landscape become almost a livable outdoor room, an area more welcoming and usable to the campus population. The project will need to be sustainable, both environmentally and  institutionally. Any design should follow Middlebury’s Master Plan, as well as our Sustainable Design Guidelines as they may apply.

Facilities Services already has some plans for renovating the area next summer–a baseline of improvements that need to be made to fix the area. These include pouring two sidewalks that are only crushed stone at present and fixing drainage along the west sidewalk next to Atwater Hall B. These baseline improvements will be spelled out in another post. And don’t forget, like other parts of the project, this may be modified by your design if desired.

Requirements & Expectations

The Master Plan Implementation Committee (MPIC) is looking for a landscape design plan to guide the development of the project. This should include a master overview drawing, as well as detailed drawings necessary to complete the project, including sectionals or elevations if you consider them appropriate. A brief, 1-2 page narrative of the project, including an overview of the plan and design goals, should accompany any drawings. Furthermore, a material list and rough budget should be provided as well.

Plans should be either hand drawn (no larger than 11×17) or electronic in PDF format. The contact information form should accompany the submission. A select group of projects will then be invited to present their plan to the MPIC, so a brief presentation (5 minutes) should be prepared.

The MPIC will choose no more than 3 finalists to present their plan at a Campus Forum to be held in early February. A winner will be chosen by the MPIC based on strength of design, sustainability, and feedback from the college community.


Many people on campus are available for help and questions. These include Tim Parsons, Landscape Horticulturist in Facilities; Luther Tenny, Assistant Director of Maintenance and Operations in Facilities; Pieter Broucke, Professor of History of Art and Architecture; and John McLeod, Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture. See the Resources page for the complete list.

Next Steps

A site visit to launch the project is scheduled for Friday, November 5 at 4:00 pm beginning in front of the Atwater Dining Hall. Tim Parsons will be there to walk through the site, discuss some of the history of the landscape, and address some of the deficiencies. A one-on-one meeting can be scheduled if you are unable to make the site visit, but this will have to take place during regular business hours.

This blog will also host more information on the project. See the Resources page for maps of the area and advisor contact information. Future posts will detail the history of the present landscape, deficiencies of the site, the master plan as it relates to Atwater, and more. The Middlebury Landscape blog will also host some posts on this project, more general in nature, with topics that not only relate to the project but to our landscape in general.