Broader Campus Feedback to Help "Improve Ecological Character" of the College

The Sustainability Committee, Grounds Department, and Facilities and Planning Office have three projects and a management plan that project their stewardship of the environment on campus. While this effort is in progress, it requires the future help of students, faculty and staff.

The first project centers on a Buffer Management Strategy intended for the College’s 2,700 feet of shoreline along the St. Mary’s River. About two years ago the College contracted Biohabitats Incorporated, a firm located in Baltimore, MD, to survey the campus grounds and put together a report on the possibilities for development of buffer management strategies. Today, the strategy uses “best management practices” to protect the water quality on campus.

These practices can be seen all over campus, such as the pond between Goodpaster Hall and the Office of Admissions. Christophe Bornand, the Sustainability Committee Coordinator, explains that the pond is “designed to hold storm water with the help of surrounding aquatic plants, shrubs, and grasses.” In this way, the College takes a more active role in preventing runoff to other areas of campus, and creates more wildlife habitats in the process.

Waterfront Mitigation Planning is another prong of this endeavor. According to the Critical Areas Commission, the Muldoon River Center, the Rowing Center, and the Shoreline projects are all part of the Buffer Management Area. As a result, the College has a mandate to plant two square feet for every square foot of “disturbance within one hundred feet of the buffer.” This adds up to 58,950 square feet of new plantings, half of which are complete as of this fall.

Charles Jackson, Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities, shed light on the issue of balancing an “ecologically-sensitive buffer with viewshed.” This is necessary in order to maintain the aesthetic beauty of the waterfront, while complying with the guidelines for development along the shoreline.

The other half of the total square footage to be planted is located in three areas around campus: one near Queen Anne Hall along St. John’s Pond, the other across St. John’s Pond near Route 5, and the last near the path by Dorchester Hall. Incoming students who participated in the Seahawk Service Day activities during Orientation would recognize the last area from the trees planted there.

On a poster board of drawings, which are also available online, Bornand pointed to several “viewshed corridors” that are located between the planting areas. These will remain free of plantings so that the campus community can continue to enjoy the beautiful views of the water. The deadline for completion of this project is December 31, 2009, and Charles Jackson informs us that we are on track.

It is important to note that students and faculty are the intended participants in these planting projects. Anyone interested in helping may contact Christophe Bornand or any member of the Sustainability Committee for more information. Shane Hall, the Sustainability Fellow, is working with the Sustainability Committee to develop a definition of sustainability through the strategic plan.

Hall said that sustainability is not just about being “eco-friendly,” but that it encompasses “energy, climate change, runoff to the bay, and purchasing socially just and environmentally friendly products.”  With this mindset, students and faculty alike are encouraged to affect positive change on campus through these environmentally conscious avenues.

Lastly, a mowing reduction program converts areas around the periphery of campus into meadows. Jackson said that this practice has numerous “ecological benefits,” and in addition “reduces maintenance efforts, saves gasoline, and reduces costs.” By restoring these natural meadows, the College reduces labor hours, and saves about 15,000 gallons of gas a year.

Not only are these projects “in tune with the campus spirit” of sustainability, but as Jackson said, they “improve the ecological character of the campus.” These steps are nearly cost-free, as the Meadows project pays for itself, and the cost of purchasing trees is several thousand dollars out of a fund already allocated for those purposes. These projects are a call to the campus community to become involved in the environmental aspects of the College.

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