Senior proposes on-campus garden for Capstone project, runs into obstacles

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New growth may be sprouting up on Pacific’s Forest Grove campus. For her senior project, Sierra McCartney is trying to get a landscape design implemented on campus. The sustainable design and art double major decided that she wanted to combine her two interests, sustainability and art, into one project.

She said that for her art major, she’d historically created art that was replicating other art, but since the process no longer carried a meaning for her and she wanted her art to be something that encourages people to see things differently.  She chose a site behind the Pacific University library with the hope that, using both artistic and sustainable practices, she can get people to see the site differently.

McCartney said that she started designing the garden with the intent to demonstrate sustainable practices and inspire people to practice more environmentally friendly methods in their own lives.  She said that she chose a garden because she feels that landscaping at Pacific is a big problem.

For her own garden, McCartney said that using local materials and natural materials was a big priority for her because she said that she wanted humans and nature to coexist in the same space. She wants to grow edible plants such as blueberries, red currant, bunchberry, beach strawberries and trees such as dwarf apple, pear, plum and hazelnut.

While McCartney is not lacking for enthusiasm for her project, she has been running into a few challenges to get her design in the ground.

Director of Facilities and Safety Management Harold Roark said that he isn’t opposed to the concept of the design, but that the project needs more work before he can approve it including specifics for what it will look like, who’s going to pay for it and who’s going to maintain it.

Roark said that he’s concerned that the extra work to maintain the garden would become the responsibility of maintenance and facilities rather than students.  Fruit that isn’t eaten from the fruit trees falls to the ground and eventually rots which isn’t esthetically pleasing or sanitary.

In addition to being beautiful and well maintained, Roark said that safety is another concern of his when weighing in on the design. The garden would need to have open spaces and short hedges because people can hide in bushes or tall shrubberies and potentially ambush students.

Roark said that McCartney’s proposal isn’t the first on-campus garden idea Pacific has seen. He said that a garden project was placed in Trombley Square between Scott Hall and the Library and fruit trees were planted between Clark and McCormick Hall in 2006, but the projects were unsuccessful.

Roark said he’s concerned that if the proposed garden goes unmaintained, when parents bring their student, or potential student, they’re going to see dead grass or an overgrown garden.

McCartney, however, said that beautification and maintenance were strong considerations when designing the garden. She said while she was planning the garden, she considered when the plants she wanted to implement would bloom to ensure that something would be blooming during each season.

Another obstacle that stands in the way of the garden is that the site conflicts with the intended location of President Lesley Hallick’s proposed science complex. The science complex, which is being fundraised as part of the Pacific University capital campaign, is intended to be a building that unites the undergraduate science programs and provides more departmental facilities. The projected site for the building is behind the library, near Murdock Hall, the same location that McCartney wants to implement her garden.

McCartney said she hadn’t been aware of the complex when planning her design and, because she made her design for that specific space, she doesn’t know where else on campus it would go if the site is not approved.

One of the most stressful concerns for McCartney is that the implementation side of the garden is supposed to be her art senior capstone. If her design isn’t given the go ahead soon, she said her backup plan would be to focus her attention on the Life and Sol Garden which is located on University Avenue across from the tennis courts.

While Roark said that he would be in favor McCartney’s garden with some alterations and added specifics, his idea of sustainability extends farther.

A few of Roark’s ideas have been implemented on campus to both increase sustainability and also save the university money. One of his contributions includes computer-controlled sprinklers that water the lawns when they need it, but conserve water when it rains.

Another addition includes the purchase of a cardboard baler. Before the baler, the university needed to pay $600 a month to dump cardboard, but the baler compacts the cardboard, which can then be sold for $10 a bale. The savings covered the cost of the machine within a year and now is saving the university money and is keeping all that cardboard that would have been dumped out of landfills.

If possible, Roark sees to it that rotting trees on campus are pruned enough to not be a safety hazard, as rotted branches can fall and injure people, but that the bases are left intact to remain habitat for wildlife such as squirrels and acorn woodpeckers.

Roark plants between three and four times as many trees as he needs to take down and said that while many of the trees he’s planted are small and young now, his vision for the campus extends far into the future for when they’re full and grown. He said that while the students now might not be around to see the trees as adults, maybe their grandchildren will.

Roark said that he likes to think of sustainability in a big picture scenario and next would like to see solar panels placed on the Forest Grove campus.


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