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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Tufts Mountain Club looks to get Senate funding for Trips Cabin

The Tufts Mountain Club (TMC) over the summer finalized plans to build its proposed Trips Cabin, a building to supplement the Loj on its New Hampshire property. But the club lacks the funds needed to move forward with construction.

"We're almost ready to break ground. We have all the plans, we have all the permits, the only thing we're lacking right now is the money," said Katie Bond, junior and public relations director of the Trips Cabin project.

The Loj is a TMC-owned house in rural New Hampshire that provides a destination for student groups going on trips, or just a haven for friends looking to get away from campus.

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate has retained $714,291.72 of the $902,338 check the university sent it last month in compensation for allegedly embezzled student activities funds. The TMC is eyeing some of that money for its project.

"It's just kind of frustrating because we're ready to go, we're ready to build … and some of the money that's been promised to us is just tied up in red tape," said Brian Gilling, sophomore and director of the Trips Cabin project.

Over the summer, the administration compiled a feasibility report for the cabin, which is a joint project involving the TMC, the TCU Senate and the administration. This led to an estimated price tag, a tentative timeframe, professional designs and blueprints and the acquisition of all the required building permits.

The Trips Cabin, which is planned to sleep 27, is expected to cost between $200,000 and $250,000, according to Gilling. "This is a much simpler structure than the Loj is now," he said. "This is really as cheap as it gets … no bells, no whistles."

The TMC has engaged in preliminary discussions with Senate leadership about funding the Trips Cabin, according to Gilling. "They have pledged to support us financially in some way or another," he said, adding that nothing has been finalized.

"We've been working really closely with the Senate. I spoke with the people running for TCU president last semester before they were even elected," Bond said. "[TCU President] Duncan [Pickard] was really supportive of the project." The TMC endorsed Pickard in the election.

The Senate is "totally committed to seeing this project happen," Pickard told the Daily. "I think it's going be a huge benefit to the Tufts community," he said.

Construction of the Trips Cabin would only take six to eight weeks, Gilling said. But he doesn't expect construction to begin until March or April, even if the TMC receives funds at the end of this semester, given the winter weather.

"Ideally, we would be able to secure the necessary funds within the next couple of weeks," and start construction immediately thereafter, Gilling said. But he added that realistically, the Senate would take a longer period of time to decide how to spend its new money.

"They're going to want to take a few months to kind of deliberate," Gilling said. "They just want to hear a broad range of ideas from everyone in the student body."

TCU Treasurer Matt Shapanka was not ready to commit to funding the project. He emphasized that the decision about giving money for the Trips Cabin would take time. "There's a lot of factors, so it's not something that's extremely quick," he said. "They will not be breaking ground this fall."

Funding the Trips Cabin has "been one idea that's on the table," Shapanka said, but clarified that "there's been no formal discussion of who's going to pay for what or how or when."

He added, "I'm not aware that we've promised funding, but I do expect that TCU will make a contribution to the project." Shapanka was not sure how much the contribution would be, saying it could range from nothing to $200,000.

The Senate is going to work with the entire student body in the coming semester to discuss different options for spending its new money, employing town hall meetings to promote the discussion, according to Shapanka.

There are a number of different ways that the TMC could pay for its Trips Cabin project, Pickard said. Some of the possibilities are that the TMC could raise the money on its own, the Senate could give the TMC a lump sum to be used toward construction or the Senate could give the TMC an interest-free loan, he said.

The Senate contributed $200,000 10 years ago to build the current Loj, which replaced its condemned predecessor. In that case, the Senate gave the TMC an initial $100,000 lump sum and took another $100,000 loan out from the university. The Senate has paid this back over the last 10 years, completing the repayment this year, according to Pickard.

"We just can't even say how much the Senate would be willing to contribute. That's a discussion that has to be had with a lot of different people on Senate and the student body," Pickard said.

The TMC hosted the Mountain Gala, an alumni fundraising event at the Loj, in July. All told, the club raised about $15,000 over the summer from private donations. "We have a lot of support from alumni and a lot of support from [the] TMC," Gilling said.

The TMC developed the idea for the Trips Cabin last semester in response to overcrowding at the Loj on some weekends. "Different people … wanted to use the Loj for different things," Bond said. "[It became] just a really tense situation."

"It's just going to be such a huge asset not only to the Mountain Club … but also [to] all the different groups that come up to the Loj," Gilling said.

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