FAU plans new parking structure on nature preserve

After releasing a master plan update which includes information on future land usage, FAU plans to utilize the nature preserve in order to meet the campus parking demand.


Nicholas Windfelder

Tortuga Trail and preserve houses lots of wildlife and vegetation to see. Photo by Nicholas Windfelder.

Victoria White, Contributing Writer

Florida Atlantic University may build a parking garage on the Boca Raton campus’ nature preserve, and some Student Government officials are fighting against the iea to build the parking structure. FAU is planning to build the structure west of Parking Deck 3, which is located just west of FAU Stadium and north of the baseball field.

FAU recently released the Boca Raton Campus Master Plan Update with information on future land usage. The document cites issues with limited parking due to student population growth and includes an idea to build a parking structure over Tortuga Trail, which is located behind FAU Stadium. University officials plan to have this project completed within the next five years as they have labeled it as a “priority project.” 

Tortuga Trail is home to the gopher tortoise and the burrowing owl, FAU’s mascot. The current plan would encroach upon the trail, which would threaten the habitats of those animals.

Environmental Club president Rachel Lapensee expressed her fear for the wellbeing of the species on the preserve and believes construction will harm environmental and conservation efforts. 

SG Representative Rachel Starck explained that when workers begin construction on the land, construction will separate animals, preventing gene flow from happening during breeding as only small populations will breed repeatedly. 

According to Lapensee, the plan to construct a parking structure on the preserve is not surprising. She believes FAU does not have the best track record pertaining to environmental efforts. However, other students do not mind giving up the trail in order to have a place to park their car. 

“It’s more of an annoyance and I just don’t want to compromise,” Starck explained. “I definitely agree that parking is an issue on campus, but I don’t think it should come at the cost of the animals that live on the preserve. Certainly not the burrowing owls, which are the mascot of FAU.” 

Currently, SG is considering a resolution to voice their concerns to the university. Members are also tabling in the breezeway to help raise awareness, along with conducting trail cleanups and tours of the preserve.

Lapensee said students can email her, Starck, or Feaheny with questions, along with attending Environmental Club meetings. 

Lapensee states that protecting the preserve is important and although a parking structure may not be perceived as an item of great issue, the environmental impacts the wildlife on the preserve will face are immense. 

“If we’re gonna say we wanna protect the owls and our school’s mascot is literally the burrowing owl, we can’t bulldoze their habitat– where they live. I mean, action starts with us,” Starck said. “This is our future, our school, and we must put in the effort to protect our species and land. Because change starts here before it moves to higher levels.” 

SG President Pierce Kennamer and Vice-President Dalia Calvillo did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

Victoria White is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or message her on Instagram at @victoriaawhitee_.