A proposal for a new kind of green space

Written by: Dan Taylor, Lauren Kemp, Marshall Cooper and Michelle Schaller

Background

The Student Environmental Action Coalition has been working on Marshall’s campus since 2008. In our existence as a student group we have advocated for recycling in every academic building, renewable energy sources on campus and more responsible consumption while raising awareness of environmental problems. In 2009 a Green Fee was passed and Sustainability Department was created to oversee Marshall’s greening efforts. The department creates jobs for students on the recycle pick up crew and at the eco cycle bike loan program. The greening of the Stone and Thomas Building, water bottle refill stations and so many other projects on campus are evidence that greening initiatives should be showcased on campus. SEAC is creating a vision and testament to the commitment to green initiates on Marshall’s in its proposal for a Heritage Garden.

Project

SEAC is proposing the creation of a garden on Fifth Avenue directly east of the Harless dining hall. This space was created after the old alumni center was torn down and is currently unused for recreation or other purpose. This proposed area is already designated green space and could serve many productive or recreational purposes. Currently the space creates an unsightly puddle and source of standing water after it rains. The garden would use and absorb this rain preventing excess runoff. The garden would incorporate elements of the past and a sustainable prospective on the future. Plants would be local varieties or heirlooms that are native to West Virginia. The scenery would be a mixture of art, herbs, a vegetable garden, fruit trees and other native plant species. Educational displays of West Virginia history and heritage would highlight the past while the incorporation of renewable energy sources would point to the future. Together these elements will showcase Marshall as a forward thinking institution.

Purpose

The creation of this space would benefit the university in three major ways; through (1) education, (2) recreation, and (3) community outreach. (1)Education in outdoor spaces is limited on campus. The garden would provide a space for not only outdoor class activities but also scientific research. The garden could also show case student art and cultural projects that are aimed at preservation. (2) Students could use shaded areas with seating for relaxation or recreation. Students could use and work in this space, getting their hands dirty and releasing tension from schoolwork. (3) The garden would serve the community not only to beatify the city but also could donate produce to the local food bank. The various communities could also take advantage of the educational utility of the garden. There are several behavior services and after school programs that could use the garden as part of their sensory curriculum or as an outdoor activity.

 Upkeep

We hope to design the Heritage Garden as low maintenance as possible by planting long lasting trees and plants with a focus on native species, perennials and varieties that require less trimming, produce less brush and have strong root systems that will soak up water and prevent excess in the garden area. Excess water can also be controlled by rain barrels, which will also help keep costs down by providing for the irrigation of the garden.

We will recruit a base to spread the maintenance of the Heritage Garden over a large group of students and faculty, so that that there is more connection and ownership of it, making it a truly campus wide project. We envision student organizations and clubs, through Students Affairs and Greek Life, as using and maintaining the garden. Service learning courses could use the garden to facilitate student learning, while also helping to maintain the space. The possibility also exists for work-study positions, which would entail garden maintenance. Even community organizations could become involved, such as Huntington Community Gardens and other service groups.

We want to make this as much an educational place as a recreational space for students. We hope the university is able to use to it engage the community, and to recruit potential students and faculty, as well as possibly create student jobs through the Sustainability program.

 Cost

Cost should be kept low by a variety of factors. Most labor to create the actual garden would be volunteered, through clubs, classes and community organizations. Work-study could be utilized also to help with student employment. SEAC could plan fundraisers to pay for other things that are needed, but most seeds and equipment could be donated or shared by groups like Huntington Community Gardens, WVSU Extension Service, and ect. We could also possibly raise money from local and national foundations, as well as soliciting donations from various campus departments and programs. We are also looking into federal renewable energy grants to fund the addition of solar and wind to the garden landscape.

We would also solicit in kind donations from area businesses such as Loews, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and lumber companies, so we can build raised beds.

Later on down the road, if produce, fruit, ect. Is grown in the Heritage Garden, it could bedonated to student or community organizations, such as food banks or the Ebenezer Medical Outreach’s Fresh Market. The possibility of it being sold to raise funds for garden maintenance also exists. Every avenue of possible funding will be investigated and utilized by SEAC with the assistance of the Sustainability Department.