The Wartburg Sustainability Department is planning a prairie planting on campus to reduce long-term spending and create more opportunities for students, Anne Duncan, director of sustainability, said.
The proposed landscaping will take place on the college-owned Gabe lot, located on the corner of seventh street northwest and third avenue northwest across from Löhe Hall, once the house and garage on the lot are torn down.
“The house got to a point where it needed a lot of maintenance and we don’t make money off of it so it’s more cost effective to tear it down,” Duncan said.
Sold to the college by the Gabe family, the house and garage will be torn down by a contractor as late as the end of November, Duncan said.
“If they get the house torn down in the next month, then we’ll get it planted this winter.” Duncan said. “Otherwise it’ll be a spring planting.”
Duncan said a large reason this expansion area was agreed upon was because it is out of the flood plain and provides suitable conditions for the prairie to grow.
The proposal on the prairie was discussed after several environmental science and studies students researched ways the college could be more sustainable in its on-campus resources.
“The goal is to get our landscaping transitioned so that it is more native and takes less maintenance,” Duncan said.
Duncan described this transition as no-mow zone landscaping which means it is more of a planting.
Once these plantings are established, they have less maintenance expense throughout the year than the current methods, Duncan said.
“One of our driving factors is long-term savings,” Duncan said. “We’re saving on gas, on equipment wear and tear and staff time.”
The students found that Wartburg could be doing a better job with its current landscaping by focusing on planting plants that can handle the varying weather patterns of Iowa.
“They are thinking about doing native grasses that are pretty all year round. Even in winter they’re still there,” Therin Bradshaw, an environmental sciences and studies major, said.
Bradshaw was part of an environmental team last year that was responsible for identifying the current flowers and trees on campus and found that Wartburg uses many non-native species in its landscaping.
“Ornamental trees are pretty cool, and it’s kind of competing with native stuff which is what we’re trying to bring back,” Bradshaw said.
Along with less maintenance and care for non-native plants, Duncan said the new prairie will provide an essential experience to environmental students.
“Environmental studies majors are going to need experience in this area,” Duncan said.
“These are awesome opportunities to be living labs on our campus.”
Wartburg already owns the Lageschulte Prairie, a six-acre donated plot located two miles east of Waverly, which is used for field studies and individual research.
However, this prairie would be more easily accessible for students, Abigail Blake, an environmental sciences and studies major, said.
“It’s a good research opportunity,” Blake said. “It’d be a cool process for students to be involved in.”
Duncan said this year’s first-year students will start to see the full impact of the prairie during their senior year because of the initial work and expenses.
“Some of these changes are going to cost more up-front, but the long-term impact is there,” Duncan said.