Goodbye PDK woods: the end of an era

By Amanda Jesse & Gerard Shaughnessy

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The woods next to PDK held many memories for UD students. Photo by Kathleen Miller.

Senior Jeanne LaGarde, looking out at the treeless expanse of dirt beyond the window of her Old Mill building, said:

“We call it ‘the waste land’ now.”

The tree-clearing began at the end of the 2016 fall semester, during finals week.

“They don’t start the construction too early in the morning, but if you’re trying to sleep in, you’ll wake up to all that ruckus,” said senior Brenna Rossi, who lives in the ground floor apartment. “It was especially noisy when they were tearing the woods down. You heard all the cracking of the trees as they bulldozed them.”

Still, to LaGarde, the daytime construction noise on the dirt field where the PDK woods used to stand is preferable to the nighttime passing of partygoers on a typical weekend.

She says the party noise has not really diminished, however, with the demolition of the woods.

Students across the University of Dallas have mixed feelings about the new development project, which is building single-family homes where the PDK woods once stood.

For some, it is an opportunity for the university to raise its profile in the area, expand the “bubble” to include professors and their families or give the surrounding area a cleaner look.

Potential babysitting jobs, a close community feeling between students and professors and cuts to travel costs for professors were all potential benefits of the development expressed by students.

“At the end of the day, it will make everything nicer and it will be a good look for the area,” senior Peter Hasson said.

Others are more doubtful that the juxtaposition of students and professors will be beneficial, as students and professors might grow tired of seeing each other.

Senior Eric Felchak expressed the desire for students to be able to live in the housing. However, he also mentioned that he might need help to pay for it.

While many are hopeful that the new housing will have its benefits, the loss of the woods is hard to overcome.

For senior Paul Lewis, the woods were a tradition.

Since his older brother first came to UD 16 years ago, “Friday nights” were a part of his family.

According to Lewis, the practice of meeting in the woods on Friday nights to sing Irish folk songs around a bonfire began when the first graduating class of St. Gregory’s Academy of Elmhurst, Penn. came to UD in the early ’90s.

Students of “St. Greg’s” were required to take either folk singing or juggling classes.

The students would eventually go on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage through Spain with little money, paying their way by performing with the skills they learned in class.

Upon their return, the students held a party in the woods surrounding their school, singing the folk songs that had seen them through the Camino.

When they came to UD, they decided to keep the tradition going, so “Friday nights” was born.

With junior Sarah Webster, this came full circle.

She experienced a moment on pilgrimage in Lourdes, France after her Rome semester when she impressed her Irish relatives with her knowledge of Old Irish folk songs- songs that she learned on Friday nights in the woods, singing around a bonfire under the stars.

For Webster, the loss of the woods is difficult.

“A lot of growing up happened in those woods,” Webster said. “Growing in a good way and growing pains.”

When families move into the housing development, however, Webster hopes that it can still be a place for new people to grow up.

She doesn’t want to ever forget those nights as a freshman in the forest, with the fire lighting up everyone’s faces.

Looking up at the stars, she would contemplate her faith and enjoy the company of “incredible people.”

Webster reminisced:

“Who would have expected that having those revelations would happen in woods across the street from a gas station in Irving, Texas?”

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