Lullwater v. Construction

Catalyst for a New Environmental Commitment

Lullwater Preserve, located near the center of Emory's Druid Hills campus, offers a natural reprieve. This peaceful place represents a flash point in Emory history. In 1999, a proposed road along its periphery threatened one of the few remaining natural areas on campus. The outcome led to a renewed commitment to stewardship of Emory's environmental resources.

Campus "Breathing Room"

Walter T. Candler (Emory College 1907) bought 250 acres in 1925 and named it Lullwater Farms. As he went about breeding and racing horses and overseeing a farm of cattle, hogs, and chickens, the nearby university continued to raise marble buildings from the mud fields. In 1958, Emory bought the property from Candler for "breathing room" and to provide a home for Emory's presidents.

The university opened the gates of Lullwater for the public to enjoy the park-like setting. Within a decade the Emory community began to express concern about wear and tear on the property. In the 1970s, a study committee issued specific recommendations to protect the land, including a prohibition against vehicular traffic and discouragement of adjacent property owners from polluting streams that flowed into Candler Lake.

"Stop Construction Thru Lullwater"

Emory embarked on a comprehensive campus master-planning process in the 1990s. The first sign of controversy was a chalked message that began to appear on campus sidewalks in early 1999: "Stop construction thru Lullwater."

Students organized a vigorous protest against a proposed road along the edge of Lullwater. The quarter-mile road, skirting the southern edge of Lullwater, was intended as a conduit for shuttle buses from a new parking deck on the Clairmont campus to the core campus.

The perceived threat to Lullwater galvanized the community. Many students, alumni, faculty, and staff members felt that the community was on the verge of losing not only tangible forest and waterways, wildlife and rare vegetation, but also a vital part of Emory's identity.

The proposed road was part of a new campus master plan that had been rolled out the year before. The building program called for a new cancer center, a performing arts center, a new building for the nursing school, a biomedical research building, and new classrooms and laboratories for physical sciences. The Clairmont campus would undergo a transformation, with the demolition of the decades-old University Apartments and construction of new student apartments, an athletics and activities center, a new day-care center, and a parking deck.

Community dialogue on the importance of Emory's natural areas involved the administration, faculty, staff, and students. More than 1,000 students, faculty, and staff signed petitions opposing the shuttle road. Those in favor of the road countered by noting that it would significantly reduce traffic on nearby roads and cut both commuting time and pollution.

Protecting Old-Growth Forest and a Rare Flower

After what President Bill Chace termed a thorough and "healthy debate," the university cabinet recommended that the Board of Trustees approve construction of the shuttle road. The design was modified to help avoid old-growth forest and to mitigate fragmentation of the natural ecosystem.

The construction of the shuttle road -- now called Starvine Way, for a rare plant that grows in Lullwater -- and the campus conversation about Lullwater's future helped inspire a recommitment to environmental stewardship and led directly to inclusion of ecological principles in Emory's current vision statement and strategic priorities.