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University Whips Up Resilient Grounds Management Practice


By Naomi Millán Grounds Management
Aerial view of Western Michigan University main campus
Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo is set on beautifully rolling hills, which means getting from the freshman dorms to main campus provides a daily dose of cardio. It also means that the landscape services staff has to contend with difficult slopes to mow and maintain. A new landscaping strategy at the university is working to mitigate the challenge, and make the campus resilient to climate change. 

Steep slopes on campus have been the focus of ecological restoration efforts, which do away with the difficult to maintain monoculture of grass lawns and replace it with native and diverse species that take care of themselves over time. The university, which has a track record of pursuing sustainable practices, has planted over 500 whips of birch, aspen, white pine, and walnut trees, along with a mix of shrubs, according to the university. Whips are unbranched tree seedlings that come cheaper than more mature trees. 

The university says it plans to let nature takes its course on the newly planted slopes. The result will be a naturalistic, randomized, and diverse ecological environment that will only grow more robust and resilient as it matures. 

The university also planted a small signature pecan tree, what previously would have been an unusual choice in Michigan. However, it is anticipated to thrive in a warming climate, potentially growing as tall as 145 feet.

Naomi Millán is senior editor of Building Operating Management.  

 

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