April 20, 2010
Syracuse University's first rain garden was officially unveiled yesterday during a brief ceremony before approximately 30 attendees. The garden was decorated with willow branch art displays constructed by students and faculty in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The 9 a.m. dedication was the first event of the daylong SU Showcase program which featured student academic achievements in the area of sustainability in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
The Waverly Rain Garden, located in Waverly parking lot, will enhance campus sustainability by capturing and absorbing some of the lot’s stormwater runoff. This will reduce the amount of rainwater entering storm drains and help lessen storm system overloads. The garden covers 400 square feet and is capable of capturing nearly 2,000 gallons of water.
Creation of the rain garden was truly a collaborative effort.
Enthusiastic volunteers worked in bright sunshine and brisk winds on Saturday, April 10 to help finish building the Waverly Rain Garden. A total of 55 volunteers, mostly SU and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry students, worked in shifts digging and moving dirt and placing plants.
Staff from SU’s Physical Plant worked closely with the rain garden’s designer, Nick Zubin-Stathopoulos, a SUNY-ESF landscape architecture graduate student, to excavate the site and construct a large stone retaining wall in early April.
As the volunteers began transforming the garden under Zubin-Stathopoulos’ direction on April 10, he liked what he saw. “The garden looks good,” said Zubin-Stathopoulos. “Physical Plant did a great job of getting the site ready. Allan Breese [SU’s Director of Business and Facilities Maintenance Services] and Eric Beattie [SU’s Director of Campus Planning, Design, and Construction] were very supportive of the project, and their staffs were extremely helpful and cooperative. They had a lot of great input. It was a good learning experience.”
Many of the rain garden volunteers had limited landscaping experience. Yet that didn’t stop them from working quickly to prepare the soil for planting the various native shrubs and grasses Zubin-Stathopoulos had selected. By noon much of the digging and earth moving was complete.
“I’m amazed by the quick progress the volunteers made,” said SU junior Alison Carey, environmental policy major and rain garden volunteer recruiter. “I think the garden looks great. All of the volunteers worked very hard. It’s wonderful that so many came out today and some even brought friends.”
Some of the student volunteers came out to fulfill community service class requirements and others joined in to experience a different aspect of college life. Many commented on the good time they were having while working.
“I came with an open mind. It’s pretty fun.” said SUNY ESF sophomore Olivia Bennett, who made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for five hours recently during the “Jelly Jam” in the Hendricks Chapel.
“This is more enjoyable than I anticipated,” said SU senior Joe Ralbovsky. “It’s fun. I’m having a good time.”
Eric Downie, a local architect, volunteered because of the garden’s sustainable purpose. “Being exposed to a green building project recently got me involved in participating in this rain garden project,” he said. “This will help raise awareness for sustainability. It’s a good example of putting ideas into action.”
Seeing all the volunteers working together caps off all of the great cooperation between the SU administration, staff and students that allowed this rain garden happen, said Rachel May, SU’s sustainability education coordinator and driving force behind the rain garden’s planning and design efforts.
“It’s fun to see all the enthusiastic students who are interested in this project,” May said. “This is a wonderful example of the best kind of collaboration that sustainability brings out.”
Zubin-Stathopoulos hopes that, as a new campus sustainability feature, the Waverly Rain Garden will be used as a teaching tool for students. The garden’s low-maintenance design, including the use of groundcover instead of sod, is one of its key sustainable elements. However, a crucial part of fostering this will be regular weeding so that the groundcover can quickly become established. Zubin-Stathopoulos and May are currently recruiting volunteers to help weed the garden once a month.
“It is great to see students actively engaging in sustainability projects at Syracuse University,” says Melissa Cadwell, marketing manager for the Syracuse University Sustainability Division. “This rain garden is an example of how students can integrate sustainability into the curriculum. The educational opportunities of this garden will be valuable for years to come.”
To volunteer to help periodically weed the rain garden, please contact Rachel May at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-9726.