From walking barefoot around campus to advocating for sustainability, NSU’s students have worked to promote a greener NSU, and, now, the fight for preservation continues.
Paul Arena, faculty adviser for the Nature Club, met with NSU’s Physical Plant to discuss the possibility of relocating the Native Narrows Wildflower Garden from the front of the Parker Building to the Mesozoic Garden, the large garden on the south side of the Science Annex.
In response to the suggestion, the Nature Club created a petition to keep the Native Garden in its current location. They are waiting for the Green Sharks to approve the petition.
The Nature Club’s draft of the petition states, “A top administrator at NSU would like the student-initiated and funded Native Narrows Wildflower Garden outside of the Parker Building removed and replaced with exotic species…The garden has become well-established and is maturing nicely. Apparently, however, it is not ‘pretty enough’ and too weedy for a building entrance.”
Jessica Brumley, vice president of Facilities Management, said that there was miscommunication in Physical Plant’s request. She said that, currently, the Native garden doesn’t receive enough sunlight to grow properly and that Physical Plant wants to relocate it so that it can grow more efficiently. She said that the garden wouldn’t necessarily be replaced with exotic plants and that Facilities would work with students to find the right vegetation to plant.
“It would benefit the garden to be relocated just to provide it the natural resources that it needs to thrive,” she said. “If we relocated the garden, if that’s what the students and Dr. Arena wanted to do, we would work with them to determine what species they want planted.”
Nature Club Vice President Emily Harrington, junior environmental science major, said that the plants Nature Club chose to plant are low-light plants, meaning that they don’t need a lot of sunlight to thrive. If the plants from the Native Garden are transferred to the Mesozoic Garden, which receives a lot of sunlight, many of the plants will die, she said.
“The problem is not that the plants are not getting enough sunlight. The problem that administration has is that [the plants] are doing almost too well,” Harrington said. “They hate that the plants spill over into the walkway, particularly in the summer months when no one is here to maintain it. But they refuse to help us maintain it over the summer when there are no students to do the work.”
Harrington said Nature Club was led to believe that once Physical Plant took control over the Native Garden, they would put exotics in the area and use pesticides to help maintain it. She also said that Physical Plant said they will not fund the relocation.
“Quite frankly, we can’t afford to move it ourselves,” Harrington said. “And we’ve been told flat-out that we won’t get help in that department.”
Brumley said that the person who told the Nature Club they would not be funded for the relocation provided misinformation.
According to Brumley, Physical Plant will fund the relocation. She also said that they do not want to move the plants to a new area that will do more harm than good to the plants’ growth and that Facilities will help maintain the garden over the summer.
“I think trying to find the solution to the topic at hand is going to have to be a joint effort,” Brumley said. “If we look at everything and find the best thing for us to do is leave the plants where they are, then that’s what we’ll do.”
NSU alumna Tylia Hernandez, former treasurer of Nature Club, said that the club put a lot of work into the garden and that it is one of her favorite places on campus.
“I knew I could always spot butterflies there,” she said. “It was always just so nice to walk by it after a long lecture in Parker.”
Hernandez also worked with alumna Shannon Aldridge, former Nature Club president, to compare the organisms living in the garden to the organisms living in campus areas with non-native species. They found that the number of native fauna, or animals, increased with the planting of native fauna.
Aldridge said that exotic plants are ones that are not naturally found in the location they are planted in. Although planting exotic plants does not necessarily mean they are an invasive species that affect the native flora and fauna, more often than not, exotic plants become invasive and push out the naturally occurring vegetation, she said.
“All in all, native plants are healthier for the environment, the surrounding plants and the animals in that location, when compared to exotic plants,” Aldridge said. “Exotic plants have the potential of becoming invasive.”
Brumley said she agrees with the research conducted by the students and that Facilities is continuously working to minimize the number of exotic plants planted moving forward. Any of the LEED-certified buildings, including the Center for Collaborative Research, are required to only use native species.
“We’re here to make sure students are provided the best experience and that they’re getting the best learning experience,” Brumley said. “If having the garden is what’s going to do that then we’ll support that.”
The Nature Club founded the garden in 2013 in celebration of Earth Day to replace dirt, rocks and the invasive exotic plant species Wedelia. The club has maintained the garden since its inception by hosting two cleanup events every semester to remove invasive exotic plants and to maintain the planted native vegetation.
Brumley said the director of Physical Plant will meet with Arena within the next two weeks to discuss the garden.
“I want to work with the Nature Club as a partner in this to determine what’s best for them,” Brumley said.
Harrington said that Nature Club is willing to compromise for the garden’s location.
“We’d rather have it somewhere over not having it all,” she said.
To sign the petition or find out more about the garden, contact Arena at firstname.lastname@example.org. For updates on the status of the garden over Spring Break, visit The Current’s website at nsucurrent.nova.edu.
PHOTO PRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM E. HARRINGTON