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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, OIT Partner to Develop Sustainable Lands on the OIT Campus

Nov 07, 2009
About 40 individuals attended an informal groundbreaking and planting party for new community garden in the Klamath Basin today.

About 40 individuals attended an informal groundbreaking and planting party for new community garden in the Klamath Basin today. OIT President Chris Maples, Acting Provost Brad Burda, Associate Professor Kathy Sale, and Laurie Sada of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spoke to a small crowd of eager volunteer gardeners. Equipped with pickaxes and shovels, the attendees planted the first 97native plants today.


The Native Plant Schoolyard Habitat will “spruce” up an area on Oregon Institute of Technology’s main campus in Klamath Falls. Plants native to the high desert region will occupy space that will be developed by an interdisciplinary team of OIT students, faculty and staff, as well as groups from the Klamath Basin. The finished project will be utilized as a teaching garden for OIT and Klamath Community College students and the Klamath Falls community, including K-12 students.


Two grants from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have been given to OIT to begin work on the OIT Native Plant Schoolyard Habitat. $10,000 is designated from the USFWS Schoolyard Habitat program, and $8,000 is from USFWS Education for a total of $18,000.


The 2.5-acre spot will be totally sustainable once plants have been established using the method known as xeriscaping, which by definition is landscaping designed for drought-susceptible areas or for areas where water conservation is practiced. Five “communities” are being designed: sage and native grasses/perennials; rock flat; oak woodland; mixed conifer; and a juniper community. 


“Native plants are beautiful, they’re not all sagebrush and rabbitbrush,” said Associate Professor Kathy Sale. “OIT is deeply appreciative to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their support of this project that will allow us to share a greater understanding of native plants and sustainable landscaping with the larger community, and provide a living laboratory where students can conduct research.”


OIT student involvement will be interdisciplinary: Freshmen Civil Engineering students designed the walking path for the garden last year. Geomatics students from the Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon Student Chapter will complete the land surveying. A Renewable Energy Engineering student- designed solar-powered pump for drip watering is envisioned, and interpretive signage designed by Communication Studies majors is planned.


OIT Facilities Services will cut the 900-foot path and lay gravel; additional funding is sought to make the path compatible for visitors with disabilities. Other partners are U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Klamath Basin Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon; local xeriscape designer Erik Strickland of Ninety-Six Ten; and the Oregon State University Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center.


Sale is the project leader and has spent the past seven years pre-planning for the garden. The official planning was begun last school year. The entire project is expected to take three to four years to complete.


Community members may contact Sale at (541) 885-1642 or kathleeen.sale@oit.edu  to learn more or to volunteer with the project. Additional funding is being sought to offset the cost of making the path accessible to people with disabilities.


In the spring of 2010, OIT, USFWS, and OSU KBREC will also host an educator/community workshop about utilizing native plants, the benefits of xeriscaping, and pollinator ecology and conservation.

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