Springtime afternoons on the Trinity campus can be legendary. Sunny skies and cool breezes greet visitors as they navigate their way past blooming mountain laurels and stately live oaks. This spring, students have some new ways to enjoy their time outdoors.
Five new outdoor areas across campus have been transformed into intimate and informal social areas, or “chill zones.” They’re places where students can meet, relax, and build a sense of community while still adhering to Trinity’s ProtecTU health guidelines.
“These areas are important to students as we continue to reckon with this pandemic because it promotes safe, outdoor social gatherings that allow for the development of community and campus life while still keeping our COVID spread down,” says Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh ’22 and vice president of Trinity’s Student Government Association.
The five areas are located on the Prassel lawn, the lawn area between Mabee Hall and Murchison Lounge, the Esplanade, and near the Magic Stones. Some areas contain patio furniture, while others feature hammock groves. More spots are expected to come later in the semester.
“Students are excited by the prospect of having hammocks on upper campus. Many students hang their own hammocks, but it’s exciting that now everyone will have access to them,” says Chapin-Eiserloh. “SGA funded the construction of the hammock groves and I was personally involved with the design and planning process.”
Getting the chill zones set up was a collaborative effort, with contributions from facilities services, recreation and sports, health and wellness, conferences and special programs, and Dean of Students David Tuttle.
“They were set up so students can be together—apart,” Tuttle says. “The fatigue of the pandemic and Zoom, the lack of opportunities for interpersonal connections, and the desire for students to not be isolated were factors we looked at. In the fall we took a bit of a conservative approach, and in December we started to work to implement some things for spring.”
Of course, social distancing is still important in these areas, so Katherine Hewitt, wellness coordinator and chair of the COVID-19 ProtecTU public health campaign, and her team were there to make sure the configurations were safely distanced and proper signage was in place.
“To approach this project safely, we still had to encourage the ProtecTU health pledge and guidelines including physical distancing, wearing a mask around others, and working with facilities and dining services to properly set up and then sanitize these spaces,” says Hewitt.
“Creating these safe and inviting spaces on campus means our students can slowly resume their interactive and meaningful undergraduate social experience,” adds Hewitt. “Plus, spending more time outdoors promotes physical activity, improvements in mood and energy, and creates a sense of belonging by connecting with others in person.”
And though the chill zones are new to the campus as the result of the pandemic, there’s already hope that in some form, these areas can become a permanent fixture on campus.
“After the pandemic, I hope these areas will still be important to students, allowing them to take advantage of the weather that we have this time of year in San Antonio,” says Chapin-Eiserloh. “These areas, like the Adirondack chairs, will ideally continue to be a place where people can socialize while enjoying the outdoors.”