Rubber Mats Sidewalk Outside Forrer Learning

What Will Happen to Rubber Mats When Library is Completed

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Photo by Jackie Letaiugyang

A student is pictured walking on the grass instead of the rubber mat sidewalk on a rainy day.

Bridgewater Va.- The rubber mats sidewalk outside the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons have been in place since August 2018, which is also when the Class of 2022 moved in. 

Prior to that fall semester, students used a sidewalk outside of the Alexander Mack Library, which connected the sidewalk outside of Bowman Hall to the crosswalk on East College Street, heading to Flory Hall. When the library went under construction, that sidewalk was fenced off, making it unusable due to it being a safety hazard. 

“The chain linked fence, a construction fence, was put up for safety and security during the construction process,” said Robbie Kuykendal grounds equipment operations supervisor for the College. “The orange fence was put around the trees as a protection for the trees and their roots.” 

As for solutions to where students could walk while the library is under construction, David Vandevander, the former director of facilities,  explained that a joint decision was made by his department and the construction firm, after reviewing other possible solutions. 

“We first anticipated placing a metal walkway but it presented long delivery dates and was much more disruptive,” Vandevander said during a recent interview before his retirement. “Initially the project was not intended to locate as far east as it currently is but the contractor required more easement around the project than originally planned.” 

Kuykendall also said that due to the “amount of foot traffic anticipated would have worn the grass down to bare dirt, which would have become a muddy pathway. So that’s why placing the rubber mats there was the best solution for a temporary walkway.”   

For students, some chose not to make use of them. “It feels unnatural to walk on them when there is grass to walk on,” said senior Donté Henderson.

Those who do walk on them have not always had an easy time. 

“Sometimes they are unleveled,” said senior Clara O’Connor. “I even tripped once on them and it’s not fun.”  

“When it rains, it makes it hard to get to classes on time,” said senior Deonte McLean. “Especially when you have a class presentation, sometimes it’s frustrating when you get mud all over yourself.” 

Other students, however, acknowledge that the rubber mats are helpful. “I guess it’s better than walking on muddy grass,” said sophomore Haley Partlow.

Sophomore Katie Baker said she “thinks they are an inconvenient annoyance” but she also understands that there might not be a better solution to the problem.

“I also see it as a temporary inconvenience that will resolve in a new and improved walkway,” said Assistant Professor of English Sam Hamilton.

The mats now have a limited time left as the Forrer Learning Commons comes closer to its opening. 

“Because the rubber mats cannot be burned,” Vandevander said that once they are removed, they will be laid for reuse at the Bridgewater College Equestrian Center. 

Shannon Bower, facility manager at the Bridgewater College Equestrian Center, confirmed that the rubber mats “will be used in the horse stalls.” 

The removal process will be done by the College’s Grounds Department likely to be around the end of February or early March. 

“Once the rubber mats are removed,” Kuykendall said, “the area will be returned to grass.”

Determination of whether to seed or sod the area will be based on weather, time and events taking place in the vicinity of the Learning Commons, added Kuykendall.