Campus safety officials advise against visiting
Benjamin Allee, Viking Fusion Videographer
When Berry’s Department of Recreation sent out an email on Thursday, August 24 advertising a hike to the Old Stone Dairy, multiple campus safety officials warned against it.
Heads of Emergency Management and the Land Resources Department contributed to these warnings, as they knew what Recreation Director Michael McElveen did not.
The hike would have been “a very bad idea without some major clean-up,” said Land Resources Director Billy Yeomans. According to Yeomans, the site needs this clean up in many ways, as both the structure itself and the surrounding wilderness are full of safety threats.
|Half of the bridge’s stone has fallen into the creek below.|
Assistant Vice President of Emergency Management, Gary Will, described once seeing the “nastiest, biggest, ugliest two-winged animal [he] cared to see” at the Dairy; It was a buzzard or vulture which had nested inside the building.
Will did not stay long after encountering the creature. “[A]nd I never care to see it again”, he said.
That bird itself is only one of many living, breathing dangers up at the site. Will and Yeomans testified to seeing coyotes, foxes, bobcats, copperheads and rabid raccoons in the surrounding areas. They also warned of the Poison Ivy and Poison Oak that cover the remains of the building.
The exact date of the Dairy’s origin is unknown, but its construction could date back to 1870, which would put the Dairy’s age at around 150 years. A family by the name of Berryhill (a name which is still attached to places around Rome) built the structure out of local stone and lived in a wooden house attached to it.
|A single tree grows within the silo’s walls.|
Now, only the silo and milking parlor remain. The silo is occupied by a lone tree, and the milking parlor is filled with metal tubing and a mangled tin roof, one of many structural hazards.
Half of the stone bridge covering a nearby creek has fallen away, showing that the stonework of the overall structure is likely to fail.
“The roof could cave in at any time,” Yeomans said. Fallen trees have already caused severe damage to the stone walls, even destroying an entire corner of the milking parlor.
Along with these structural flaws, another concern about the hike was that it would take place at 7 p.m. and continue into the night.
Police Chief Bobby Abrams was firm in describing how risks increase during nighttime, as he detailed the 1987 death of a cyclist at the end of Stretch Road. The young woman hit another cyclist head on – an incident that might have been much different had it occurred during the day.
“…[G]ood common sense is…night time’s not a good time to be out,” Abrams said.
The tin roof has collapsed into the milking parlor, where a corner has been destroyed
by a fallen tree.
Land Resources noted that it would also be difficult for emergency services to reach the site if they needed to; this is a primary concern for campus safety officials.
The importance of accessibility was clear when emergency services on campus had to carry a 75-year-old man out of the woods when he was injured this past summer, as they could not reach his location by vehicle.
Will and Yeomans understood these many hazards, and corresponded through email about how to address the situation. Eventually, Outdoor Recreation received Will’s advice: “Out of an abundance of caution, please stay away from the actual Stone Dairy Site.”
Director McElveen decided to redirect the hike toward a safer location. Despite the amount of apparent danger, however, no campus officials have actually restricted the site.
Although Campus Police reserves the right to restrict sites at any time, sites on campus are rarely off-limits to students and the public. When Land Resources does discover an urgently “unsafe” place on campus (a deep and concealed well for example), they immediately address it.
Yet, Land Resources will not demolish or repair the Dairy at this time. Demolishing the building would destroy a “structure that is commonly known”, Yeomans said. While campus administration has also discussed preserving the site (and even using it for events), this would be difficult, as preservation would have to obey a strict and expensive renovation plan.
While the Dairy may have a safer future, campus officials warn that the site is still very dangerous, and should be approached with “good common sense”, as Chief Abrams puts it. “Safety and security…is the responsibility of the individual. We’re just a backup to that….It’s all of our individual responsibilities to be familiar with our surroundings and make good decisions.”
In regards to the site and the campus at large, Yeomans concluded, “enjoy the property, but do it safely.”