By Jen Colby, Sustainability Resource Center
If you walk by the Pioneer Garden site this week, you may notice a lot bigger shovel at work than the usual hand tools used by the student gardeners for moving soil. Facilities Management is continuing the multi-year process of upgrading underground utilities across campus. Unfortunately, the project affects the garden site.
However, thanks to Real Food Rising’s youth farm mob team and a Bennion Center Peer Court service project group from the Utah Youth Court Associations’ annual conference, we were able to save improved garden soil from the disturbed raised beds, as well as compost, wood chips, and perennial plants. The groups provided more than 30 hours of service over two days to help minimize impacts.
Construction crews are installing a new chilled water loop in the southwest quadrant of campus. The system will replace old, outdated equipment and connect numerous buildings to a higher-efficiency cooling system that will save significant energy and contribute to campus sustainability. The project requires extensive excavation in this busy section of campus. The project team has been working hard to minimize disruption to building occupants and the gardens.
The initial engineering drawings showed a segment of the loop that would have run north and south squarely through the middle of the Pioneer Garden. Thanks to project manager Steve Laraway and MSS Engineering, at our request, this section of the loop was moved east to reduce damage to the Pioneer Garden.
The construction crew will be working in two phases through the gardens area. This week, they will excavate and install pipe along the southeast edge of the gardens. They will backfill with new, clean soil and turn most of the area back over to student gardeners by the weekend if all goes smoothly. In mid-fall, they will install another section of the pipe along the east side of the garden. Most of the alignment will run under the asphalt pad but a portion of the garden will also be affected at that time.
The project manager and construction team have worked closely with Myron Willson, myself, and the student gardens crew leaders to coordinate the project. They graciously adjusted their initial timeline so that the Environmental & Sustainability Studies Summer Organic Gardening class could finish the semester and student gardeners had a few days to salvage any materials from the area. Student crew leader Natalie Allsup-Edwards and her fellow students will re-establish raised beds in the two impacted areas once the construction is finished. They’ll use materials provided by the construction team, as well as items salvaged prior to the project.
Volunteers will be welcome to help in the restoration, as well as the usual ongoing garden activities hosted by the Bennion Center student program and Edible Campus Gardens crew. If you would like more information about volunteer opportunities in the gardens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.