Lack of funds delays plans for prairie

Potential plans to turn the area behind the Business Instructional Facility, or BIF, into a prairie are on hold as the University’s Facilities and Services department looks for adequate funding for the project.

“A team of seven or eight students spent an entire semester (spring 2008) examining the suitability of the site for a native prairie planting that would also provide space for small class gatherings, meditation space and an interpretive garden where people could have gained further knowledge of prairie vegetation,” said Anton Endress, professor for the department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science.

The project was part of BLUE Illinois, an environmental conservation project within the Facilities and Services department, Endress said.

“The area just southeast of Huff Hall up to the ACES Library is known as the Military Axis, said Facilities and Services Planning Director Helen Coleman in an e–mail.

“(It) is a remnant of the military drill field and parade ground established in the original land grant from the federal government.”

The Military Axis Area is included in the Campus Master Plan, a University growth project focusing on landscape planning and other aspects of development that was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2007. Coleman said the area should remain a civic space until further funds are set aside. It could potentially be managed as a natural area with plant communities.

The funds, however, are being used for higher priorities on campus, Coleman said.

“The administration is interested in the further enhancement of this open space; however, at this time, the campus is unable to make the long–term commitment of funds required, especially with many higher priorities for funding on campus,” Coleman said.

Judith Lateer, communications specialist for Facilities and Services, said the department does not know what projects will be given priority.

The students misjudged the cost, Endress said. Since the prairie idea did not have financial backing, it did not qualify for approval.

He added that the University’s planning division has an interest over which proposal is used.

“Aside from bias of student designed landscapes, somebody has to exert quality control,” Endress said. “And I have to presume that they suspect students are not up for doing high quality work.”

Some students said the idea for a prairie would be good for the University, citing reasons ranging from a commitment to green standards to enhancing the campus’ beauty.

“I think that would be really pretty,” said Jane Gascoigne, senior in Nursing.

“It would definitely add to the aesthetic value of the University.”

Kate Kinsella, junior in LAS, said it would be a good idea to let the prairie “grow natural.”

“I’m surprised that they opposed it because it seems like everything is going green right now, and people are more interested in the environment,” Kinsella said.

According to Endress, an architecture class is re–examining the prairie plan and considering the expansion of the prairie eastward.

In the meantime, a prairie is being built near the University president’s house at the corner of Orchard Street and Florida Avenue.