Cochran Sanctuary Closed Until Further Notice: Falling Trees Provoke Safety Concerns

Since January 10, the Cochran Sanctuary has been closed to the public and to the Andover community.

The Cochran Bird Sanctuary, a swathe of wooded trails adjacent to Pine Knoll, was announced as closed on January 10 due to ongoing hazardous tree removal. The construction alert was sent by the Office of Physical Plant (OPP) through email to the Andover community with a tentative reopening date of January 31.

Herbert Langlois, Chief Engineer and member of OPP, is managing the removal project. He said that the closure was prompted by extensive damage caused by a large storm over Winter Break. The extreme weather brought down multiple trees in the Sanctuary and around campus. 

“This storm had soaking rain and high winds that took down many trees around campus. I have been told this has happened in the past, but this level of damage is rare. We are consulting with arborists and forestry professionals to ensure that hazard trees are removed as safely as possible. This work is extremely dangerous and we are trying to get it addressed as quickly as we can,” said Langlois. 

The announcement was made after OPP was notified of the situation. Following the initial report, OPP, Public Safety, and external tree consultants were called to close the Sanctuary to begin removing the trees. The teams focused on trees that were prone to fall. Langlois emphasized that until all hazardous trees are safely removed, the Sanctuary will remain closed.

“We received a call that trees were actively falling while people were walking through the Sanctuary. After receiving that call, we did an initial inspection, and campus safety secured the gates. There are trees down all over the Sanctuary. Some of these trees are across the trails making emergency access a problem. These trees even for experienced professionals are challenging to deal with. We have done our best to open up these trails but there are numerous trees that are still in danger of falling,” said Langlois. 

Kathryn McQuade, Instructor of English and Coach of snowshoeing, commented on adapting to the situation, as the Sanctuary was the training ground for the sport prior to its closure. McQuade noted that snowshoeing is familiar with adaptation, due to inconsistent weather throughout the season, and they are constantly finding new ways to practice the sport. 

“We often have to get creative with practice plans thanks to Mother Nature. Sometimes it’s a lack of snow, sometimes it’s rain on top of ice, sometimes it’s high wind taking down trees. Living in New England keeps us on our toes. The great thing about snowshoeing is we can easily pivot to ‘winter walking’ when the weather is problematic. Our team loves using the Sanctuary for hikes when campus lacks snow. So we miss being in the woods, but we’ve been able to go on other campus and neighborhood walking routes,” said McQuade. 

Similarly, Lily Williamson ’25, who used the Sanctuary as off-season training for Cross Country, has now been exploring different routes on campus following the trails’ temporary closure. Williamson commented on the possible disadvantages of being unable to keep up training on the home course and is looking forward to the Sanctuary’s reopening. 

“[Due to the closure], I can no longer run in the Sanctuary. It’s motivated me to look for other places on campus to run but sometimes that’s not super safe, to run routes that I don’t know as well. I will say that the Sanctuary, because it’s part of our home course for cross country, [is] kind of disadvantageous to not have as a resource to train, but there’s other places to go,” said Williamson.