The growing number of students on campus and the need to increase campus development has necessitated the once-blooming wetlands to be replaced.
The wetlands, once situated on the west side of campus, have been pulled out to make room for a proposed parking lot to accommodate the school’s growing population and some additional playing fields.
The area had been classified as a wetland and was a site for many class labs and community service projects.
Biology professor Renee Van Buren, who has been involved with the development of the wetlands since the late ’90s, was surprised when she saw that the wetlands were gone.
“I was quite shocked,” Van Buren said. “One day I was driving past and it was bladed off. I didn’t know that was going to happen. It was a little jarring.”
Van Buren came to what was then UVSC in 1995 and became interested in the wetlands. She thought it would be a great place for class laboratories. Van Buren did some research and found that it was an official wetland.
When they first built the campus on its current location, they had to mitigate the land, that is, designate other lands that would replace the wetlands that were destroyed due to construction.
“It was a wetland originally,” Van Buren said. “We are just barley a few feet above Utah Lake. This was an area that was a wetland.”
The wetlands had some foreign species introduced to it like the Russian olive tree among others.
Students across many departments, such as Biology, Geology and Fire Science teamed up with community members to begin cleaning up and restoring the wetlands to their natural state.
According to Van Buren, in 2005, discussions to remove the wetlands in favor of development started. When the Biology department abandoned their involvement with the wetlands.
The campus is in need of additional space and the mitigation there was not a legal obligation.
Jim Michaelis, the associate vice president over Facilities Planning, said they brought in an independent consultant and they said that they weren’t complete wetlands, but about half of one.
“We maintain that it was not a wetland,” Michaelis said. “The only reason it was a wetland or part of a wetland was because of the runoff that comes from campus. You know, off of our parking lots, of the roofs when it rains and stuff.”
Michaelis is concerned about parking when they start construction on the new student life and wellness building, which will take away parking lots L and M.
“You know what parking is like now; it’s going to do nothing but get worse because the more students that we get, the more parking we are going to need,” Michaelis said.
As much as Van Buren will miss the wetlands, she understands it’s hard to compromise between having green space and facilitating the increasing student population.
According to Michaelis, he still has to get the approval for the parking lot, but hopes construction will be started this spring and summer so it will be ready for the fall 2011 semester.
By Thomas Larsen