The Fallbrook property managed by the university’s Auxiliary Services is gaining new life in hosting the conference cross-country championships while helping preserve its natural setting.

SUNY Oswego bought Fallbrook in 1957 when the building was a closing city poorhouse with around 100 acres attached. Auxiliary Services eventually took over management of the property, which has hosted a number of recreational endeavors over the decades.

“It’s a chance to transform it into what it’s going to be going forward,” said Stephen McAfee, assistant vice president and executive director of Auxiliary Services. “It used to be a recreational space when the college purchased it, so our hope is that students come out and use this.”

Auxiliary Services, Intercollegiate Athletics and Facilities Services have worked together in charting its future path, with the rebirth launching when the men’s and women’s Laker cross-country teams hosted their first home tournament since before the pandemic back in September. 

The next big spotlight comes when SUNY Oswego hosts the SUNY Athletic Conference cross-country championships on Saturday, Oct. 29. Participants and fans will see a greatly transformed course that also considers the nature around it.

“I think it’s going to be one of the best courses in SUNYACs,” McAfee said.

Natural needs

“Dan Baldassarre, doing research out here, found some birds that hadn’t been present for decades come in, and asked us to preserve the space,” McAfee said of the busy biological sciences faculty member. 

“We had committed to doing the track,” McAfee said. “And we worked together collaboratively on how nature balances with the needs of the group.”

During the video interview, McAfee couldn’t help but stop and listen to the birds chirping all around him.

“I really recommend coming out to listen to the bobolinks,” McAfee. “They’re an amazing species.”

Juan Martinez –- the coach of the men’s and women’s cross-country teams –- and Wendy McManus, assistant vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics, worked with SUNYAC and Auxiliary Services to make sure it was compliant with the league's requirements, and created a unique course including hills and flatlands.

“Our previous course was completely flat in the Hidden Fields,” McAfee said. “The nice part is this gives our students an opportunity that’s theirs for our cross-country athletes, and to give them a place to train, where before they were running on roads and would eventually come out on trails.”

Ultimately, the effort is worth it to give the student-athletes a course and home base that they can be proud of, he noted.

“To know that this is theirs first is always going to have a different piece to it,” McAfee said.