New prairie plot in the works

Next fall, the Knox campus might look a little more like it did in the old days, when Illinois was a sprawling prairie. The Prairie Plot Committee members in Student Senate are pushing to install a new plot of grasses, wildflowers and other native plants near Post.

Senator Tim Lovett, a sophomore and chair of the committee, said this idea sprang from a desire to be greener, even though a prairie plot would make the campus a bit more brown.

“It really stems from, how much do they mow the lawn?” said Lovett.

Lovett, an environmental studies major, objects to the amount of gas used to power the mowers to keep our campus lawns neat and uniform. Last year, Lovett and senator Abe Zumwalt, a sophomore and another member of the Prairie Plot Committee, put forth a different idea for maintaining the grass in an eco-friendly way: hiring a flock of sheep.

“We joked about getting sheep on campus, but we’d run into the fecal matter thing, and we’d have to pay for a shepherd,” Lovett said.

In addition to saving gasoline, Lovett said more prairie plots would promote biodiversity by providing a home for monarch butterflies and endangered honeybees, serve as a carbon sink and attract the attention of green-minded prospective students.

“As much as I kind of abhor the idea of crafting the school into a business more than an academic institution, we’d get kids interested in sustainability … it would be a big visible thing to say, we’re committed to things, we’re Knox College,” he said. Lovett also commented that a path would run through the prairie to allow students continued access between Post and Seymour.

Senators chose the space behind Post as the prairie plot’s potential new home because it would be the most visible. Unfortunately, this land is already claimed as the women’s rugby team’s practice area.

“I just feel that there could be better places to put it, such as over where the never-used volleyball court is,” said rugby player and sophomore Hannah McMahon.

Fellow rugby player and sophomore Helen Schnoes disagreed.

“I’m way into the prairie thing,” she said. Schnoes said it would be easier for rugby to find a new space than it would be to find a new site for the prairie, and that there were plenty of options to explore in order to accommodate everyone. The team plans to discuss rotating practice with the soccer and Frisbee teams, or moving to the land near Old Main or behind Sigma Nu.

The prairie plot initiative will be proposed to Senate at next week’s meeting. If Senate passes it, it will move to exec, the four vice presidents, and President Roger Taylor. The committee hopes to begin planting in the fall.

Lovett said that people have generally been receptive to the idea of a new plot, with the exception of some who fear the space will not be as “pretty” as green grass. In his mind, every school has wide expanses of grass: converting some of that to the prairie it used to be would make the Knox campus more unique and interesting. Lovett believes Senate’s and the administration’s decision about the plot will say something about Knox.

“Is Knox College really a green grass kind of institution? Is Knox becoming safer and safer, for safe kids who like safeness?” he asked.

Deana Rutherford

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