SER-UW Whitman Nature Walk: A Pathway Through Restoration

Project Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $14,712

Letter of Intent:

Summary: Designed by students and built by students for campus wide appreciation, the Pathways Through Restoration development plan will cultivate a community of successful leaders in environmental stewardship. The Society for Ecological Restoration UW Student Chapter (SER-UW) has been working for the past five years to locate areas of the University of Washington’s campus that have become degraded in different ways and to restore them into functioning ecosystems. As part of this, we have put a great deal of effort into restoring a north campus site near McCarty Hall to a native forest ecosystem. Our active restoration of the site is approaching an end as we near completion of invasive species removal and reestablishment of a native understory. However, it is important to remember that even as the McCarty Hall site becomes self-sustaining, the mission of restoration is ongoing. With the Pathways Through Restoration project we hope to communicate the importance of environmental restoration and consistently inspire advocates for a healthier world. As the plan develops, we will lead collaboration and open-discussion among environmentally-focused groups on campus and embolden the community towards establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture. The Project: Our development plan entails completing restoration on the McCarty Hall site, an achievable goal over the next two quarters. This will involve a number of native plant salvages and student work parties to finish removing invasives and plant the salvaged native plants. As this work comes to a close, we will turn the site into a community space as a tool for environmental education, a setting for relaxation, and a place to contemplate human involvement in nature. This will be accomplished with a series of pathways, benches, interpretive signage and an art installation. To further promote SER-UW and our mission of restoration, we will also host several social and educational events over the coming year. We are planning a guest lecture from a professional with ties to restoration as well as several general meetings and discussions about restoration projects. Environmental Impact: Restoration of the McCarty Hall site has drastically improved the landscape and ecosystem functions of the area. Prior to our group’s work the site was overgrown with non-native and invasive plants including Himalayan Blackberry, English Ivy, and Holly Trees. By removing these invasives, we have encouraged greater biological diversity on the site. Furthermore, the native plant species that we have introduced have flourished and serve to support native wildlife. However the main goal is to go beyond turning the site into a native garden and create an interactive natural area through which we can raise awareness of the value of ecology, the effects of human impact, and restoration efficacy. Student Leadership and Involvement: There are few opportunities like ours that empower students to take part in molding their campus. Periodic work parties bring together more than thirty new members of the UW community each quarter. We have partnered with introductory environmental classes to offer service learning credit thus incentivizing active student participation in restoration efforts. By encouraging students to help with the restoration, we foster a sense of ownership in the project. Once a student works on the site, they’re more likely to care for the land, introduce it to other students, and recognize other human impacted ecosystems. We create a space that continually welcomes new contributors and restores a sense of community. Education and Outreach: The site itself has already helped to build a strong community around restoration by bringing together other environmental organizations as well as volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. With the Pathways Through Restoration development plan, we hope that it will also become a community gathering space around which environmental restoration can be discussed and witnessed firsthand. This site is not solely designed to raise awareness but also to encourage participation and inspire change. Interpretive signage will provide information on the benefits of our work and the native species that have become established on the site. Through meetings and discussions held on and off the McCarty Hall site, we will further inspire environmental consciousness. Feasibility, Accountability and Sustainability: SER-UW includes a diverse group of students committed to this project and its success. From undergraduates in the College of Engineering to PhD students in the School of Environmental & Forest Sciences, we all feel passionately about the continued impact of our site. We gratefully acknowledge that our success has been dependant upon a number of partnerships between other groups and organizations. With help from UW Grounds Management, UW Botanic Gardens, Union Bay Natural Area, and King County Native Plant Salvage, we have cleaned up much of the McCarty site thus far. It is well on its way to being a self-sustaining natural ecosystem. With these partnerships already in place, we will be able to finish the restoration work and move forward. Our partnership with students in the Landscape Architecture department will provide us guidance on the development of the site. Anticipated budget: In our preliminary budget, we estimate needing $7,000 *(Budget has been reevaluated since LOI submission) to cover the costs of our proposed expansions. We are working at a quicker pace than the group ever has in the past and our budget from SEFS no longer covers our needs. This money will help us in finishing the restoration of the McCarty Hall site, increasing the infrastructure there for community engagement (i.e. benches, signs, art installation), and hosting several social and educational events to promote environmental stewardship and collaboration.

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Cameron McCallum