An Investigation into the landscaping around Humboldt State University
By Matt Drange
Pete Haggard gazed up at a clear September sky as he walked beneath the redwood trees that lined the east side of campus. On the first of many nature walks with his bird watching class at Humboldt State University, Haggard smelled the Rhododendron flowers as he made his way down Union Street up to Redwood Park. He caught a glimpse of a blue heron resting on a branch overhead, and an egret far above as it made its way to the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary across town.
“It was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and something I’ll always remember,” said Haggard, who transferred from a junior college outside of Los Angeles to major in wildlife at Humboldt State University in 1968. “There was this richness to the area that you didn’t see anywhere else. It just made you say, “‘Wow.’”
Fast forward more than 40 years and Haggard can’t believe what he sees around the new College Creek Apartments. He makes his way down the concrete and brick-laced walkway on the east side of the new soccer field. The field is nestled between four dorm buildings. He notes an abundance of lily of the Nile, clusters of heavenly bamboo and whole rows of Indian hawthorn shrubs—all non-native plant species to the area.
A total of 50 different plant species dot the landscape around the new dorms. The plants hail from places like the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, northern Africa, Thailand and Madagascar. If you include the irrigation system, the total cost for the landscaping aspect of the project comes out to $254,000—$166,000 of which covered the cost of the plants (To view project documents, go here or here)
As chair of the North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Haggard often finds himself in a position to advise and assist in plant restoration and landscaping efforts around Humboldt county. He doesn’t understand why the administration at HSU failed to reach out to the various natural resource departments on campus — including forestry, botany, and wildlife, among others — about what plants to install around the recent project.
“It seems like they are in a tiny fishbowl,” Haggard said. “They’re making decisions without any background and creating an alien environment. It just doesn’t reflect us at all.”
Continue reading: A Landscaper’s Take