A compromise has been reached about the fate and location of the Native Plants Area on NMU’s campus.
The current Native Plants Area, located between the New Science Facility and the Learning Resource Center, is a section of campus reserved for education and research about plants native to the Upper Peninsula. It is also an attempt at creating a greener and more sustainable campus, said professor Ronald Sundell, director of the environmental science program.
The Campus Master Plan (CMP), released in the fall 2007 semester, originally placed buildings, including a residence hall, over what is currently the Native Plant Area. Those plans might have required the Native Plants Area to be moved off campus, Sundell said.
After NMU students working with Sundell expressed concerns and produced over 1,000 signatures, NMU administration revised the plan to move the plants to another location on campus, he added.
Another section of the current Native Plants Area has been completely set aside for the project, protecting it from further building developments by the university and ensuring that the plants stay on campus, Sundell said.
This area exists from the retention pond near the current residence halls and the woodlot behind the New Science Facility, Sundell said.
“There was a point there, right after January, where they told us we were going to have to move it completely off-site. It was a little bit scary. That would not have been good, but it seems like now that the plan, from my understanding, is to go ahead and develop the area, which is good,” he added.
This alternate location was proposed by students and later agreed upon by the Campus Master Plan Committee, said Jim Thams, computer-aided design/geographic information system manager for the NMU planning and engineering department.
“It started almost right after we got done in October and we worked with JJR (Johnson, Johnson and Roy Consultants) on a number of options for this area and when we got one that we felt comfortable with . we sat down with Ron [Sundell] and his group,” Thams said.
Financial assistance will also be offered to help cover any cost associated with moving the Native Plants Area to its new location, said Carl Pace, associate vice president for Business Services and Facilities.
Sundell credits the administration with helping save the project.
“[The members of the administration] have listened to the students, they’ve listened to concerns and to the faculty, and I applaud [them],” he said.
Mike Rotter, senior botany major and member of the Environmental Science Organization, has been working on the Native Plants Project with Sundell for over a year and was responsible for collecting the signatures.
“[The revised plan is] something that we can work with and we feel that we can still manage to get our end goals of the study area to stay intact. It also allows a lot of room for the administration to get some of their goals for the area done,” said Rotter.
Rotter also cites NMU President Les Wong for helping to save the project.
“We should thank President Wong for all the hard work he’s done on this. He has been really instrumental to keeping the study area on campus. It’s been a pleasure working with him,” Rotter said.
In the proposed area, the project intends to plant various grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees, all of which are native to the Upper Peninsula, said Sundell. It will also contain a wetland that will serve as a groundwater recharge location.
The proposed area behind the New Science Facility, after further development, will also contain benches and trails that will allow all students to enjoy the aesthetic and recreational value of the site, said Sundell.
“We don’t want to be like some of the urban universities that are building after building. Here we have an opportunity to keep this campus in a natural setting,” Sundell said.
After spring break, Sundell and his students will present the Campus Master Plan Committee with a design layout for the area in order to show the committee how they plan to develop the space, Thams said.