Colgate Dedicates the Clearing, New Campus Space for Community, Reflection

Back to All Stories

Members of the Colgate community gathered on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023 for the dedication of the Clearing, a new outdoor space on Colgate’s campus.

The Clearing is formed by an arc of trees, carefully planted and spaced along a bend in Payne Creek as it winds toward Taylor lake. This effort complements the University’s goals to naturalize the Payne Creek floodplain. It further diversifies and replenishes the campus tree canopy by planting 19 trees from seven different species.

Aside from one golden weeping willow (native to Europe) planted near Willow Path, all of the trees planted are native to the northeastern United States: red maple, beech, black gum, hophornbeam, sycamore, and swamp white oak. Their canopy will thrive in wet conditions, increasing resilience to flooding, creating habitat, and providing enduring beauty.

Within the Clearing, visitors will be able to enjoy a sweeping view of campus from benches constructed using wood from an oak tree, recently removed from Oak Drive.

As part of the Third-Century Plan’s focus on sustainability and campus beautification, the University recently removed several oak trees, which had reached the end of their lifespan, from Oak Drive in an effort to renew the iconic entrance to campus. One of those trees was the site of the November 2000 car crash that took the lives of four young people, including Colgate student Katie Almeter. In building the Clearing nearby, landscape architects included four new benches, made with wood reclaimed from that tree, as a tribute to the memory of those lost in the accident.

President Brian W. Casey acknowledged the anonymous donor who has made these projects possible, noting that, “As these trees grow, a room will appear. A corner of nature, slightly removed, a place apart, a special place,” said President Brian W. Casey.  It will be, “a place to gather, to read a book on a warm day, to stop and look up.”

In his remarks, Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin invited community members to use the Clearing as a space to connect with one another.

“Community takes root in spaces where we can sit together, where we can hear one another's story, and happen upon a new friend,” he said. “And community honors the legacy of the lives, contributions, and ideas of those who come before us. Students, visitors, and many more will carry forward the spirit of community that we feel and honor here today and every day.”

Bob Almeter, Katie’s father, closed the event with his own hopes for the Clearing and its place in the heart of the campus community. “It’s my hope and my prayer that, in this space, whoever chooses to come and sit here will be able to find that peace and that calm in the whisper of the wind.”