Campus groups, college at odds over student garden

One of the three proposed designs for Robert Howard’s whale sculpture at the base of the steps leading up to Science Hall. Illustration courtesy of Royston, Hanamoto, Alley & Abey

By Roxanne Bequio
Staff Writer

City College and two campus organizations are at odds over a proposal to replace an established student garden with a sculpture, student in the campus organizations said.

The plot of land in dispute is on Ocean campus, located at the base of the steps leading up to Science Hall. The site currently serves as a native plant garden tended by City College students, the Urban Sustainability Alliance and the City College Green Corps, who have said the site was given to them by Chancellor Day in 2006 for their unlimited use.

The garden is also the current proposed site for Robert Howard’s Whale Fountain, a sculpture donated to City College in 2007 and has been in storage behind the Orfalea Family Center ever since its arrival at City College.

“I’m against the current proposed location, ‘current’ being the keyword, because I do like the fountain,” said City College student and Urban Sustainability Alliance President, Kaya McMillen. “It’s a nice fountain, and I’m very glad the Academy of Sciences donated it to us.”

Installation of the fountain would cost about $750,000, but the funds are not readily available.

“We haven’t raised it,” said James Blomquist, associate vice chancellor of facilities planning / management, of the needed funding. “We’re expecting it to come through contributions.”

“I don’t think it’s fair for the students that worked on the garden,” said City College broadcasting student Michael Attaway, 42.

“It takes a lot of money to tear it [the native garden] out, and redo the landscaping. It’s ridiculous,” said Attaway, who feels the funds could be better spent on much needed school equipment.

Blomquist said a final decision on when and where the fountain would be relocated permanently has not been made, since “there is a contingent within the college that would rather have native plants growing there.”

At City College, the biology department and the Center for Habitat Restoration, along with the cooperation of the Buildings and Grounds department, all helped to establish the native garden.

Crima Pogge, an ecology instructor at City College, said her Biology 41L students first came up with a plan to establish a native plant garden on campus in the spring of 2006. Soon after choosing the area surrounding the Benimiano Bufano’s “St. Francis of the Guns” statue as a suitable location, heavy research was done regarding the site’s history, potential academic opportunities, appropriate plants, and administrative barriers that could arise in the process of setting up the garden.

According to the report completed by Pogge, titled “Bio 41L Laboratory Manual Appendix,” each plant underwent a thorough screening process, in which they were examined based on several factors. Plants needed to be indigenous to this bioregion, endangered or rare, pleasing to the senses, sustainable, and attractive to pollinators and birds. For pollination success, a minimum of two plants were chosen for each species.

Full responsibility for the garden does not fall under City College or its hired landscapers, and is instead given to students and volunteers from the Urban Sustainability Alliance and the Green Corps. McMillen said involvement in maintaining the native garden has increased, and anyone interested can come on Thursday afternoons to help maintain the project.

“They shouldn’t sacrifice student’s work. It doesn’t make sense to destroy this, since the students worked so hard and went through all the correct channels. I just don’t want to see this gone,” said McMillen of the project, which took more than 800 student hours over the span of two and a half years.

Blomquist said, “From a design and planning standpoint, the best location for the fountain is where we’re proposing to put it. The natural gardens should be on campus, but there are many locations that are better suited for that little kind of confined location.”

If the fountain is moved to the proposed site, Blomquist said the students involved with the native garden would be able to get a new plot of land for their native garden.

“I’m sure another location can be found,” he said.

The Guardsman