WATgreen Committee Meeting

Minutes of the meeting held Thursday, April 11, 1996, DC 1331

Present: Brian O'Riley, John Morton, Paul Eagles, George Priddle, Hamish Duthie, Jim Robinson, Patti Cook, Bob Elliott

1. Presentation on the history of the Biology Reserve and Botanical Garden at the University of Waterloo

Professor Emeritus John Morton, Director of the Herbarium

The Biology Reserve on the north campus was established in late 1966, upon the initiative of Professor Hynes, then Chair of the Department of Biology. The Reserve was a fenced, forested area of the north campus. Professor Morton came to the University of Waterloo in 1968. He took over the management of the Reserve. He discovered that domestic animal grazing was occurring. He worked on getting the deciduous forest, native to this part of North America, and a rich, spring flora, back to the area.

When NSERC refused the application to fund the building of a greenhouse, Dr. Morton went to the vice-president Academic and the Treasurer. In 1968 a green house was built for Biology and Plant Operations, which Plant Operations would maintain. The site selection required access, a south face, available water, good soil, and the City of Waterloo planners to adjust their plan for Westmount road and move it further to the west. Funding came from various University budgets and grants.

In 1982, the proposal for a botanical garden, which was conceived in 1968, went forward to President, Dr. D. Wright. The plans were approved in October 1982. The Biology Reserve became a part of the garden. The Reserve and Garden land extends from the fence at the north end of the University property, down to Columbia Avenue, east to Laurel Creek and Columbia Lake, and west to the Westmount Road extension.

The centre is for education, recreation, ecological and botanical research. It is a community resource used extensively by the public and the university. Endowment and development funds were set up for donations, which mainly came from the Kitchener-Waterloo Garden Club, who have a building in the garden for their meetings. Grants were obtained to hire students in the summer to help with the upkeep. The nursery area is supported by research grants and development fund donations. It is maintained by Plant Operations.

There is an aromatic herb garden, grassy areas for public use (100-200 people now use it per summer weekend). There is a woodlot, which receives minimum intervention for the deciduous forest to flourish. There is re-growth between the woodlot and the lake. Prairie Tallgrass introduction has been considered to attract butterflies. North of the woodlot is a low lying grassy area, which was originally going to be planted with trees, but the soil is clay (from the Columbia Lake dredging), which does not suit trees. Hydro has a 'right of way' over it, as their lines are overhead, and they will not allow trees. There is now an interpretive trail through the area.

When Westmount Road goes through, the entrance to the Herbarium must be moved. There is interesting regeneration taking place, and the interpretive trails through the creek area, used by the public and classes, could be extended to the northern edge of the property, the head of the lake on the west side. This area is the flood plain of the creek. It is a marshland area and a boardwalk for accessibility is necessary for study as it is very vulnerable to damage.

The Herbarium is 45 acres, the woodlot constituting 20 acres of that land. Dr. Morton gave the committee the list of plants the two trail interpretations, and a copy of the original proposal to Doug Wright (sans map).

Paul Eagles asked if John Morton would have the originals of these documents archived in the Dana Porter Arts Library. Professor Morton replied that this would be done.

When asked about Columbia Lake, Dr. Morton suggested that it enhances the area, and is of value that cannot be replaced for education and recreation. It is a flood plain. It provides habitat for migrating and nesting birds.

It was suggested that Dean Fitzgerald, the Teaching Assistant for a Biology Ecology course is very knowledgeable about the biology of the creek. There is also a graduate student studying the nutrient balance of the Creek. Hamish Duthie mentioned that Roger Suffling (Urban & Regional Planning) is interested in 4 x 30m x 30m plots north of the woodlot, for regeneration research under Hydro lines. Brian O'Riley suggested that Plant Operations had suggested another area (west of the woodlot) might be more suitable. The clay soil under the hydro lines would not allow a fair testing ground.

The issue arose concerning the role of the WATgreen Committee in assisting the University in it's decision-making in regards to the Laurel Creek?

2. Presentation on Why the Campus Looks the Way it Does?

Brian O'Riley, Supervisor, Grounds Section, Plant Operations

Brian O'Riley began at the University of Waterloo in April 1965. (He has worked for all the Presidents of this university.)

The original planners (Shore & Moffat) and then Sussaki & Strong, Landscape Architects, agreed that the campus should be grass and trees, for the students. Trees such as flowering crabapples for spring convocation, and Red Maples, Black or Austrian Pine, native Hawthornes (for spring flowering), and sugar maples were planted.

There is no landscape plan included in the Master Plan for the university. Each new building includes the adjacent landscapes (trees and grass), and is done by the architect who is awarded the building contract. Brian O'Riley and his predecessor Ben Dalton, opted to plant a variety of trees for arboretums, in areas between buildings. They planted Sweet Gum, and Westean Pine, etc.

Does the university nursery supply tree replacements? It was tried, the golf course area was once a tree nursery. There are some trees on the golf course, but it costs about $100-$150 to move a tree. It is easier to buy and plant a tree from a local, commercial nursery.

Plant Operations attempts to satisfy everybody on campus: environmentalists, who want ground covers and a natural state; Laurel Creek enhancement requiring 30m buffers (which would extend onto the road in some cases); safety who want less trees, athletics who want quality playing fields, and others who have various requirements.

A landscape master plan would help give Plant Operations direction on where various plants/trees/flowers/grass would be grown and/or removed. It would allow for strategies in reducing maintenance and costs, and it could allow for input from the University community. All interest groups (players) could be involved in the planning process; Plant Operations, Biology, Safety, Athletics, Housing, Public Relations, students, staff and faculty.

As a result of the Action Plan for Turf Grass Maintenance, chemical spraying of landscape has decreased to only 20 acres of the total of about 320 acres. There are more weeds, the lawnmowers do not cut as well, and more damage is being done to the turf. The additional top-dressing, over-seeding, fertilizing, and aerating suggested in the plan is not being done due to lack of funds.

Brian brought Western University's Guide to the Sherwood Fox Arboretum at the University of Western Ontario, which would be helpful educational tool on campus for outlining what is here.

Brian O'Riley is leaving and John Morton is already retired. What will happen to the Herbarium? It is not shown on the approved University of Waterloo Master Plan.

3. World Wide Web use in Courses?

Paul Eagles asked whether others were noticing courses using the World Wide Web (WWW) more for reading lists, course notes, assignments, and past assignments? Pointers from other Web pages to WATgreen could be useful.

4. George Priddle asked that Item 7 of the March 7 meeting minutes be changed to: Silver Lake and Laurel Creek.

5. Clarification on the Role of the WATgreen Committee.

Hamish Duthie asked that perhaps we more clearly define the role of the WATgreen Committee. Paul Eagles suggested that he would like to see us carry the role of a policy advisory committee to the administration, on various issues - whether it be WATgreen initiated, campus initiated or administratively initiated, to assist with sustainable design on campus. Representative Departments and/or groups could be added to the committee depending on the topic of discussion.

George Priddle suggested that he could focus the ERS285 class, which he is teaching this summer, on landscape information, history, etc.

We shall discuss a Mission Statement and a Plan for 1996-97. What are the goals of the WATgreen Committee? (A synopsis from the history of WATgreen from the homepage and a review of discussions from prior meetings is included for your perusal prior to our next meeting.)

6. Next meeting Thursday, May 9th, 1996, at 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the ICR Boardroom.

From the WATgreen homepage (History & direction section)

There have been many efforts over the past twenty years by students, faculty and staff to improve UW's ecological profile through the reduction of resource use and waste production. ... began talking about how to focus these efforts. They organized visits to UW by Dr. David Orr who spoke on his idea of the campus as laboratory and biosphere.

The group consulted widely with staff, students and other faculty, ultimately drafting a proposal to the University President (Dr. Doug Wright, 5 September 1990) on a new initiative called Greening the Campus. ... Dr. Doug Wright announcing WATgreen and the university's commitment to its transformation into a sustainable campus.

... WATgreen has provided a mechanism on campus for students, staff and faculty to deal with some contentious issues. For example the issue of using chemicals on lawns is currently...

... the importance of a committee structure that allows all members of the campus community input and a sense of ownership. ... it is important for communication to get all the players to sit at the table on a regular basis. All of this is in the service of making WATgreen an initiative which is owned by all on campus and which empowers all to act to better their community.

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Last updated: November 3, 1997 plc