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  Spring/Summer 2009
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Caring for creation comes naturally at Messiah

Stoner Covered BridgeWhether studying bank erosion along the Yellow Breeches Creek, identifying plants and trees along the Stabler Fitness Trail, or recreating in the lush green space of Starry Athletic Field, Messiah students have many opportunities to enjoy the natural environment of the College’s scenic 471-acre campus. Elements of the campus — such as the creek — provide a unique learning lab for students who are partnering with educators to use the wide-open spaces of the Grantham campus to practice environmental stewardship locally.

A sampling of Messiah’s conservation efforts includes an on-campus garden and development of alternative energy including solar and biodiesel. In addition to these ongoing projects and a 30-year campus-wide commitment to recycling,
a team of students recently designed and implemented a rain garden stormwater
management system for the new Cottage Brook Lane housing development.

Rain gardens provide ecologically and visually pleasing solution
Whenever it rains (or pours) in the new Cottage Brook Lane residential development on Mill Road, homeowners will reap the rewards of the beautiful and functional flowering rain gardens that David Foster, professor of biology and environmental science, and a number of his Messiah College biology students designed and built last year. These three rain gardens form the first such system in Upper Allen Township to combine bio-filtration and stormwater management on the scale of a residential subdivision.

Traditionally, stormwater flowing along the streets of a residential subdivision has been collected and held in a detention basin, so as not to overwhelm nearby streams and creeks with excessive and possibly contaminated runoff. These earthen berm and concrete detention basins, while functional, can be an eyLayout of Cottage Brook rain gardenesore and the standing water sometimes creates a breeding ground for buggy pests. Rain gardens, when properly designed and maintained, are a visually delightful and ecologically-sound alternative with root and soil systems which treat many contaminants found in residential runoff and permit the clean water to percolate naturally through to nearby waterways.

The developers of the Cottage Brook Lane project, Jim and Joy MacDonald, are Messiah College alumni and had talked with Foster about the possibility of this project during the design phase in 2007. The project engineer, Fischbach Morgan & Associates, LLC and, later, J.W. Gleim Excavating, was involved in the project to create site grading that would deliver the stormwater to the area designated for the three rain gardens. In addition to the need for selecting plants that could bioremediate runoff water and tolerate a broad set of soil moisture conditions, the developers also desired to improve site views by obscuring infrastructure and walls and providing a spread of texture and flower colors across the various seasons of the year. An additional objective was to plant primarily native species of plant that would spread vigorously within the rain garden area.

Last spring, students enrolled in Plant Ecology worked together with Foster to create the planting design and select the plants for the principal rain garden, which covers approximately 275 square meters. The grouping of plants was selected to give the appearance of a naturalized wetland.Once the plants were selected, students in the Ecological Field Techniques class worked with Foster and Black Landscape Contracting to locate and plant the rain gardens. Evaluation and ongoing maintenance of this multi-faceted project will be undertaken by future students in the College’s Plant Propagation course.

The beautiful flowers that bloom at Cottage Brook Lane each season are a visual reminder of the cooperation of the participants; the students, community, township, environment, and clients all continue to benefit. Foster, summing up the positive nature of this effort, says, “This project is a model of service learning for students in technically demanding areas. It combines professional knowledge, skills, and community service with real projects. It benefits the community and builds community and expertise at the same time.”

Grant supports development of biodiesel technology
For more than five years, a team of engineering students within the College’s Department of Engineering and the Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research have been striving to perfect a process for converting waste vegetable oil from Messiah’s dining facilities
into biodiesel fuel for use in campus vehicles and as a substitute for petroleum heating oils. Given the project’s initial success, the U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded the Collaboratory a grant for nearly $500,000 to further research and refine the process.

Biodiesel fuel is appealing as an alternate energy source because it’s non-toxic, renewable, and utilizes an organic product that was previously disposed of as waste.

More information about the biodiesel project.

Solar structures generate energy locally and abroad
In September 2008, the College dedicated the open-air Clifford L. Jones Solar Scholars Pavilion. The pavilion, funded by a grant from the Sustainable Energy Fund of Central-Eastern Pa. and contributions from local businesses and contractors, serves as an educational lab for Messiah students as well as the more than 7,500 elementary school children who visit the on-campus Oakes Museum eSolar panelsach year. The solar structure includes four photovoltaic arrays which generate three kilowatts of power, enough to offset the utility usage of a computer lab in Frey Hall. The pavilion itself is constructed of 100 percent sustainable resources, including a green roof, recycled materials, and regionally manufactured materials.

For years, the Collaboratory has been designing, constructing, and implementing solar structures in Burkina Faso where the generated solar electricity is helping run medical equipment at a maternity clinic and powering a pump to provide clean drinking water at various locations throughout the underdeveloped country.

More information about the College’s solar projects.

On-campus community garden demonstrates sustainable agriculture
In April of 2007 a quarter-acre plot of land between Mountain View Residence Hall and the greenhouse attached to Kline Hall of Science was tilled and prepped for what is now known as the Grantham Community Garden.

This organic garden is a model of community supported agriculture (CSA). The practice with CSAs is that community members, or “share holders,” purchase a portion of the garden, helping to offset any expenses, and then receive produce as it is harvested. For example, the College’s dining
services operations owns 2/11 of the garden and incorporates the fresh produce supplied by the garden into its summer menus.

Now students have also begun to operate a compost system that collects organic waste from dining services and combines it with waste materials currently being composted by Facility Services. The resulting compost will be used to provide nutritious soil for the garden’s next planting season.

More information about the community garden.


 

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