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SUNY-ESF seniors build water garden for class present

Class of 2005


By Nicky Corbett
Published: 4/25/2005

If there's one thing missing at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry's campus, it's a place for students to hang out and relax, said SUNY-ESF students.

SUNY-ESF students of all majors and years sought to remedy this problem Saturday and Sunday by building the 2005 senior class gift, an ornamental water garden, by the Quad between Marshall and Walters halls. The self-sustainable water garden consists of two ponds connected by a 2-foot long waterfall and will eventually feature aquatic plants and wildlife native to New York state.

"It'll be its own microcosm," said SUNY-ESF Undergraduate Student Association Class Chair Jaime Schofield.

A description of the water garden states it will "provide aesthetic enhancement, relaxation and educational opportunities for years to come." The principal organizer of the project, Colin Diehl, wanted to create a serene environment for SUNY-ESF students to relax. Waterfalls, he said, are proven to lower blood pressure.

Diehl said he had been planning the construction of the water garden for a year and two months.

Last year, Diehl noticed the grassy slope by the SUNY-ESF quad and that's when he began to visualize the project, he said.

"I said to myself, "'That's a nice place for a pond,'" Diehl said.

Diehl, a senior wildlife major, worked for an aquascaping company, Willow Pond Aquafarms, Inc., for seven years, managing an aquaculture facility. "Because of my old job, I learned what design is suitable for the layout of the land," Diehl said.

Diehl enlisted the help of his friend, Devin Hefferon, to formally sketch out the design Diehl had in mind. The drawing was placed on an easel in the lobby of Moon Library, along with a description of the project and a sign-up section for volunteers.

More than 200 people signed up, Schofield said.

Diehl said he then met with professors from all of the ESF departments. He also worked closely with Physical Plant, which provided the machinery necessary for construction, to make sure the project would be entirely student run.

Diehl arranged to get all the materials for the garden at wholesale cost from the company he worked at, which brought the project's costs down significantly and allowed them to stay within the allotted budget for the senior gift, Schofield said.

However, the design was not warmly received by everyone, Diehl said. A petition against the project was started by fourth-year landscape architecture students.

"It became a very controversial project on campus in a very short amount of time," Diehl said.

The landscape architecture students had two main concerns when they created the petition, said Brian Post, a fourth-year landscape architecture student working on the project with Diehl.

The first concern was there is no master plan for the SUNY-ESF campus, Post said. The landscape architecture students wanted some order to the way projects are situated on campus. The second concern was they are building the garden too close to some trees.

"They were afraid I was going to kill the sugar maple tree over there," Diehl said, pointing at a tree near the garden's construction site. Post admitted they were building closer to the trees than normal. "We are doing a fair amount of damage to the roots," Post said. "I think it'll be OK in this case."

Diehl said he did not feel personally attacked by the petition. "I wasn't upset at them or mad at them because that's what they're trained to do - to question," Diehl said.

In working on the project, Post was using his education as a landscape architect with a specialization in dry-stone masonry to teach other volunteers the proper way to build the garden, allaying landscape architect students' concerns that the volunteers might not know what they were doing, Diehl said.

While the volunteers worked Saturday afternoon, Ginkgo, a band composed of SUNY-ESF students, provided entertainment with the unique style they described as "instrumental improvisation funktastic rock 'n' roll." They set up under tarps to protect their equipment from the rain.

Diehl said he had invited Ginkgo to play on the bricked patio in front of Moon Library in order to attract more students to help out. Free food and drinks were also provided.

Ginkgo guitarist Ben Kulikowsky, a senior environmental forest biology major, said he thinks the water garden will give students a cool place to hang out.

"I think it's gonna spice up the campus," Kulikowsky said. Bernie Fabig, a junior environmental biology major, was observing the progress being made on the garden on Saturday afternoon when he noted the usefulness and extent of this year's senior gift.

"That's the only senior project that's been good," Fabig said. According to Fabig, the only useful senior gift was the kiosk on the bricked patio given by the class of 1990 and 1992 for posted notices and advertisements.

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