the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Hudson Stedman ’21
Before I get started, let me make a full disclaimer: I am not proposing to axe Baxter Lawn (purely a ‘clickbait’ title). BUT, the Quad nonetheless poses a serious inhibition towards movement around the central campus. The recent (almost daily as it seemed) February snowstorms have truly brought light to this issue. If there was no shot in absolutely soaking my white canvas Vans and socks to achieve seconds faster arrival time on the journey from Alumni House to the SHAC, then why was I so deeply frustrated that I had to walk around on the road rather than through the Quad?
The answer lies in the concept of the ‘desire path.’ Most of you have probably seen trails of dead grass in city green spaces that mark the path of least resistance to city dwellers on their journeys from home to work, work to lunch, meeting to meeting, or whatever occasion of urgency forces the walker to actively muddy their shoes to achieve a seconds fewer arrival time. In fact, we have our own at Westminster: a snowy Quad reveals that some brave souls are willing to risk hypothermia or serious discomfort to cross the treacherous no man's land – once again, to trim seconds of walking time. And once a few brave souls have outlined a path, the community follows suit in exponential numbers to create what seems to look like machinery plowed course from dorm to dining hall, dorm to Armour, or dorm to athletic complexes. Even in the absence of snow, we see dead patches of grass that document the same phenomenon. Most notably on the obnoxiously annoying north side of Cushing near the annex on the journey from Southern dorms to Armour, and the patch of grass between Adams dining room and the main road, which is roped off most of the year to prevent absolute destruction of the lawn.
When pondering Westminster’s ‘desire paths,’ I am reminded of Tunji Osho-Williams’ ’21 investigative article a few years prior, considering the commute times on campus. A highly investigative article, to say the least, Tunji determined the difference between cutting across the senior lawn and walking around the senior lawn on the way from Armour to the Dining Hall is a difference of merely two seconds. Two. So why does it feel so much faster? Well for longer journeys, the difference on my route from Alumni House to the Armour Atrium between the ‘as the crow flies’ path and the ‘follow the pavement’ path, for instance, is a laborious 100ft. And using Tunji’s determined ~5.10ft/s average speed of a Westminster student rule, that means an extra 20 seconds! That could be the difference between a few back-and-forth emails to Mr. Rasheed or just being on time to class, which is why I am constantly trying to find the illicit ‘desire path.’
So how can we fix this plaguing psychological issue posing a serious threat to movement on Westminster’s central campus? Well, there are two methods. First is trying to change the mindset of a Westminster student. That means no more walking across the Quad, no more trailing after one another in a group traveling down the skinniest snow path, and everyone MUST obey the pavement. But let’s face it ... that is boring, nobody has that time. Our human nature will always lean towards the ‘desire path.’ The second solution would be to better the urban planning of Westminster’s central campus. The rest of the buildings here look fantastic, but I don’t feel like walking the ring road around the Quad to the dining hall from swim practice as my hair starts to freeze in icy chunks.
My solution, in fact, does not require much coordination or construction effort whatsoever. What is the one thing lacking from Westminster’s campus? You guessed it, dirt paths that rival those in the Palace of Versailles gardens. They satisfy the aesthetic of a garden – or in our case the Quad – without inhibiting movement throughout the grounds. We would only need a few: most likely one from Memorial to the Squibb/Kelter region, one from Gund towards the general direction of the dining hall, and one from the Alumni/Kelter region to the Memorial/Pettee Gym region. The dirt paths would only have to be four or five feet wide at most, thus not ultimately destroying the fundamental purpose of the Quad’s green space, and the grounds crew would only have to help keep the snow plowed to less than a few inches in the instance of a snowstorm. These three ‘desire paths’ would ultimately help create two ‘subquad’ regions, while maintaining the need for the cottage core aesthetic of the Quad, and greatly eliminating inhibitions to movement on Westminster’s central campus. Oh, and for the love of God, please make one across the pointless green lawn between the Annex and the brick road bridging WCC and Cushing.