New landscaping part of larger sustainability plan

By Jon McJunkin

Students were greeted by new landscaping installations on their return to campus this fall, and according to Mark Dickinson ’76, director of Facilities Services, the new additions are just the first of more landscaping changes to come in the next few years.Last spring, Macalester held meetings to develop a plan for sustainable landscaping. “The current plan from the late 1970s was only a sheet of paper,” Dickinson said, “so we decided that we needed to update the plan with sustainability in mind.”

The new plan, which is still in development and should be presented some time this semester, is known as the Sustainable Landscaping Master Plan. Landscape architect Fred Rozumeulski of BARR Engineering has been contracted by the college to develop and execute the plan.

Student input has also been important to the planning process. Zoe Hastings, the Student Sustainability Coordinator, is responsible for organizing student input sessions. “The plan is still in the draft phases,” Hastings said, “so we are only just approaching the time when the Macalester community will be able to give the most input.”

Dickinson described the plan as “a road map, not a set of directions.” Rather than outlining specific projects initially, the plan sets forth a set of guidelines for future landscaping-guidelines that were put in to use for the new projects that have already sprung up around campus.

Some of the most notable changes of t he plan are the increased use of low-maintenance perennials and planting under-used areas of lawn to save resources, such as the plantings at the corner of Grand Avenue and Macalester Street and in front of Carnegie Hall.

The Carnegie Hall installation has raised the most eyebrows on campus, with a fence in the center of the lawn.

“It doesn’t bother me, but if I wanted to cut across the lawn the fence is in the way,” said Neil Hillborn ’11.

“The fence isn’t really meant to be an aesthetic feature of the project-when the shrubs grow in you won’t even be able to see it,” said Dickinson of the controversial fence. “It’s there right now to prevent people from cutting through the plantings and across the lawn to stop ruts from forming. There was a hedge in that spot before, but it had gotten so overgrown that it was time to start over, and we thought it would be best to do that with sustainability in mind.”

More changes to campus can be expected in the future. The plan now calls for reducing the amount of turf grass on campus, as grass requires a disproportionate amount of water and other resources compared to plantings. “This will only happen on lawn areas that aren’t used,” said Dickinson, “Shaw Field and the Old Main and Campus Center Lawn will of course still be turf.”

Areas that may be planted in the future include the east side of the Humanities Building and the small lawn north of the Campus Center by Grand Avenue.

“Plantings save resources over turf lawns, so planting these under-used areas makes sense when you’re thinking about sustainability,” Dickinson said.