Continued from “Student Organizations help shape Q Parking Lot project plans.”
Professor Julius and his limnology class found out about St. Cloud State’s Q Parking Lot Pollution Reduction Project through a meeting hosted by project’s management team in early September 2014.
Following the meeting, students from Julius’ limnology class, the Ecology Club—now the Student Organization for Conservation and Climate Action (SOCCA)—and members of the Biology Graduate Student Association drafted a letter, and sent their concerns about the project to Project Coordinator Joseph Teff, Julius said.
Having a baseball field listed as a future possibility for the space, students were worried that grant money was going toward a project that wouldn’t function properly, said SOCCA President Devon Bowker, being that a baseball field and parking lot call for differing accommodations.
“Parking lots have large amounts of sediment runoff, whereas a baseball field would have much less sediment with much more nitrogen and phosphorous,” Bowker explained.
Although there isn’t a plan for a baseball field right now, Teff said that “the possibility for a future baseball field was considered in the design, both in the layout and in the treatment mechanism.”
Toward the end of September, Bowker said that Teff was waiting to hear back from the Sustainability Steering Committee before giving the a response. According to Bowker, a response didn’t come until late October.
“After no response and hearing that there was possibility of breaking ground on the project in mid-October, we presented on our concerns to Student Government, and they were incredibly receptive,” Bowker said. From there, students, including Bowker, formed a task force with the SCSU Student Government.
Students, partnering with Student Government and their newly-formed task force, drafted a letter on Oct. 20, 2014, that was sent to Teff, along with President Potter III and Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee.
Two days later, Bowker said he received a response. Teff said that students received feedback and answers to their questions surrounding the project, ranging from pollutant removal to the expenses of the project.
“Rene [Martin] and I met with [Director of Facilities Management] John Frischmann at Caribou Coffee and received the Best Management Practices layout for Q Lot, which settled some concerns and raised others,” he said.
Given the potential for a baseball field, or a similar type of area, the initial mitigation system for the parking lot wouldn’t accommodate to the amount of nutrients coming with it, according to the students’ letter.
The letter stated that “20 years of nutrient pollution is too great a cost for this habitat to bear, due to a poorly planned project, and is certainly not consistent with the sustainability goals of St. Cloud State University.”
Stated in the letter, students said that damage could be done to critical spawning habitat for native fish species in the area, among other “negative environmental implications.”
Bowker and Rene Martin, former Ecology Club vice president, kept in contact with project managers “to get better explanations and ensure [their] concerns were heard.”
“We were always in support of helping our campus and the river,” he said. “We just wanted it done intelligently, responsibly and thoughtfully, in regards to the future.”
Teff said that student feedback was important.
“In this case, they were able to express questions and concerns regarding project planning, costs…giving the university an opportunity to provide them with specific information on the project benefits,” he said.
Having discussed the project with students, Teff said it helped them adjust the project to the future.
“What students brought to the table is the campus community perspective, and specifically their concern that the project’s benefits justify the cost,” he said. “It was also important to have the students’ input on the current place of Q Lot within the overall campus.”
Bowker and Martin received a finalized layout in February that “included virtually everything we [they] recommended, or addressed everything we [they] were concerned about,” Bowker said.
“We tried to make sure that the project went from initially just basic use of the funding, and turned into something that the campus can be proud of in an environmental aspect,” Martin said.
“In no way was the project ever going to be adverse to the river,” she said, adding that the native plants might help build habitat for animals.
“I believe overall that the club helped shape the plans for Q Lot,” Martin continued. “The end result will be more eco-friendly and better representative of what this campus is trying to stand for.”
This article originally appeared in the University Chronicle on June 25, 2015.