Natural Meadowing

Summary: In the spring of 2014, the GEF approved a sustainability grant of $5,420 for the creation of natural meadows on campus. The All-OSCA Environmental Concerns Committee in collaboration with the Permaculture Exco and the Oberlin Grounds Department designed a meadowing project for the lawn spaces next to Harkness and behind Old Barrows. They plan to create sweeps of meadow landscaping. The spaces will emulate nature and “foster a sense of place and the realization that nature welcomes our presence if we manage encounters wisely.” Paul Paschke served as project manager for this proposal.

Background Premise: This endeavor has many objectives. First, this project hopes to create biologically diverse, resilient, self-sustaining ecosystems on campus that will serve to benefit our human and natural communities. Second, this will educate OSCA members and other students in the theory and practice of permaculture and to make them more aware of the natural communities we live within here in North Central Ohio. Third, there will be a reduction in the college’s contribution to carbon pollution through a reduction in the amount of fuel burned to mow the lawns and through the carbon sequestration function inherent to these plants. Fourth, we hope to reduce the workload for groundskeepers in OSCA spaces and allow them the time to use their efforts elsewhere.

Cost-Benefit Analysis: Sustainability grants are for projects that provide clear and tangible sustainability benefits to the College, though the benefit is not measured in monetary terms. The GEF was confident in this project’s success because of the precedent set by previous similar initiatives. There is carbon sequestering that is done by these the native plants and fuel savings from not mowing these areas, but the GEF is still in the process of calculating those savings through the Carbon Management Fund.

Additional Benefits
: These areas will have native plants that will make these spaces more beautiful and will redefine conventional notions of grounds keeping, weed management, and what a college campus should look like.
A group shot outside Harkness of the volunteers who helped install the new campus meadows by staking boundaries and planting native plants on Saturday, October 4th, 2014. The meadows will be rough-cut once a year as opposed to fine-cut 27 times a year, decreasing maintenance costs.