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Student’s rain garden supports Green Campus initiatives

When USF biology major Cole De'Nise designed a capstone project to complete his honors program before graduating in May, he honored Green Campus initiatives, filtered run-off to Mirror Lake and created an aesthetically pleasing place by establishing a rain garden near the PJPII Center student parking lot.

Here’s his story about designing and installing it.

Beginning fall 2012, I began putting together design plans for some sort of sustainable innovation to be installed on the eroding hillside of the PJPII student parking lot. Once the 2013 spring semester began, the last semester of my undergraduate career, these plans began to take shape, as environmental science faculty members Louise Weber and Trina Herber and operations director Tom Buuck provided substantial guidance to the plan of a second campus rain garden.

Rain GardensApproval for the installment of the garden was sought and granted from the Green Campus Committee and the administration. I then spent a week and a half rallying student groups to assist in the endeavor. Funds were sought from the Student Government Association, Student Activities Council and the Green Campus Committee.

The installment on April 26 involved a lot of different groups across campus. Members of the Student Government Association, Student Activities Council, Cougars Care Club and Trim-Line, along with Louise Weber, Trina Herber, Tom Buuck and Paul Schmidt, put their muscles to work shoveling several cubic years of heavy, wet clay. The garden was then backfilled with organic soil and mulch. At the completion of the garden, Sister Carol gave a prayer to bless it.

The idea came to me as a result of looking at the other rain garden on campus, near the PJPII\Doermer employee parking lot. That garden didn’t germinate flowers from seeds, so my goal was to install a garden with blossoming flowers the entire campus could enjoy. At the same time, I wanted to do some sort of community service project that could lead to future students embarking on innovative changes to the campus.

Rain GardensThe intent of the garden is to minimize and filter storm run-off, which harms the aquatic ecosystem, from entering Mirror Lake. The area had been unsightly for several years, and the amount of run-off began to intensify as a result of increased heavy downpours. Various flood and drought-tolerant species such as little bluestem, oehme sedge, coneflower, turtlehead, salvia, hydrangea and yarrow were planted.

The garden in itself was a monumental moment for me and for the Student Government Association, because that garden will interest future students in being active on campus, not only through clubs, but through endeavors that make the ecosystems of USF sustainable. The garden's official name is the Class of 2013 & Student Leader Rain Garden. The space was designed so future groups can add to the space, making it more inviting and usable.

In the fall, Dr. Louise Weber's science students will be monitoring and managing the rain garden and making improvements to the 2009 rain garden off of the employee parking lot.

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