Mosaic / October 19, 2016

Rain garden construction begins on campus

William Hope and Director of Sustainability Deborah Steinberg thank students that assisted them in creating the rain garden. (Theresa Murphy/TKS)

William Hope and Director of Sustainability Deborah Steinberg thank students that assisted them in creating the rain garden. (Theresa Murphy/TKS)

Professor William Hope and students wanted to do something that would make a lasting impact. They successfully planned out and built the rain garden outside Seymour Library which could potentially grow and change the landscape of the campus. Construction of the rain garden was realized this fall with the help of many volunteers.

“The specific idea came from some studies I’ve been doing in terms of ecological design,” said Hope. “Recently I’ve been doing some studies in Tucson, Ariz. with the watershed management group. Things really worked together this past academic year in terms of my studies and class opportunity. We began some collaborations with Debbie Steinberg, the Director of Sustainability initiatives, Scott Maust in facilities and Jacob Morgan in grounds.”

The rain garden became a cross-campus initiative involving many different groups. It was funded by the Anthropology department, Environmental Studies and the Green Oaks fund. Before they began building, five different spots on campus were assessed, testing the soil for infiltration. They decided to choose the spot outside Seymour Library because it is a partial-sun environment all year, and full-sun in the warmer months.

The idea for the garden came from an interest in ecological design, and focus on the broader transformations that we are experiencing in the 21st century in relation to water use. They focused on human to environment interaction. They were able to plan this as a multipurpose space, that captures rainwater from the pipes and gutters instead of letting it run into the grass and cause erosion.

The water will filter through the rocks, and then end up in a basin. Within 72 hours, the garden will have infiltration, meaning all of the water will have been absorbed by the soil. The water is not repurposed, it just sinks into the soil more slowly to prevent flooding. Plant selections were made by students. All are water-tolerant, drought-resistant native species. In the deepest area of the basin, there is sage, joe pye weed and blue iris, among several other types of plants.

One student volunteer was junior Sofia Tagkaloglou, who has been actively involved in sustainability efforts on campus.

“In this particular area, there was not a lot of grass that could grow because there was so much water coming through,” said Tagkaloglou. “We couldn’t get as many [plants] as would be ideal, because grown plants are so expensive, but the plants will spread and grow eventually.”

One of the goals of the President’s Sustainability Council for 2018 is to reduce the areas that are mowed, not including athletic fields. All of the rocks were very intricately placed by hand, and all of the building and planting was completed very efficiently, over just two weekends.

“It’s little corners that aren’t convenient to mow anyway, and we can plant flowers and increase biodiversity instead,” said Tagkaloglou.

“It’s something that really stuck with the students, it’s not something you do in a lot of classes,” said Hope. “So far it’s been looking good, we’re getting good flow and everything seems to be fine I’d like to get a big rain so we could assess the water levels”

This is a project that came together seamlessly, bringing students, faculty, and staff from across campus together to make something. Throughout the Knox community, many came together to be a part of something that will hopefully have a lasting, positive impact on campus.

Elizabeth Clay

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