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GOSHEN -- A group of Goshen College students and faculty members are making the south end of campus more environmentally friendly by planting prairie grasses and wildflowers.
The effort -- part class project, part university initiative -- will reduce flooding, eliminate the need for mowing (which emits pollutants) that plot of land, create an attractive scene for drivers on South Main Street and give students a laboratory for future study, said Glenn Gilbert, sustainability coordinator and utilities manager at Goshen College.
Gilbert, biology professor Ryan Sensenig and Sensenig's environmental biology class are creating the habitat. Three students, all of whom have now graduated, submitted a proposal to the college. Three current students, Andy Brubaker, Alana Kenagy and Jake Snyder took over once the plan was put into motion, Sensenig said.
Sensenig said the project is a collaboration among Gilbert, students, professors and facilities management. The college is also helping by providing money for it and the Elkhart River Alliance provided a grant for it.
Gilbert's focus in the project is detaining storm water. He said rainwater will remain in the area until it can be sent through a pipe to the Elkhart River in a controlled manner. This will reduce flooding, he said.
To achieve this, those working on the project had to use bulldozers to create small hills and valleys in the area.
"I say we've added the Z coordinate to the campus," Gilbert said. "We're familiar with X and Y. Now we're adding Z."
Gilbert said different grasses will be planted at different elevations. There will be a variety of grasses and about 20 or 30 different kinds of flowers, Sensenig said.
Sensenig said it will take three or four years for the habitat to be "finished," and after that, he hopes students will monitor it for classes.
The prairie grass site is at the first corner of campus a driver sees when he or she is driving north on S.R. 15. Gilbert said Goshen College has always had that corner in mind as a place to spruce up since it's the first seen, but until now has never put anything there.
"We hope to make this kind of the first impression you get of the college," Gilbert said.