Meghan Finnerty | August 29, 2021

New Meadow to Enhance Campus Sustainability

By cutting less grass SUNY Brockport is making improvements that will impact sustainability efforts, the budget, academics, and even athletic teams.
Plot of land near Redman Road

Upcoming sustainability changes at SUNY Brockport all started with a simple question “why do we mow?”

Kevin Rice ’91, Director of Brockport’s Facilities and Operations was looking for answers. “Are we mowing just to mow? Or just because we always have?”

Brockport has 210 acres of maintained land, not including about 100 acres of athletic fields. Which means that mowing takes up a lot of time and resources from the grounds crew, Rice explained. But this fall semester there will be five fewer acres to mow. The grassy hilled lot near Redman Road, across from Parking Lot X, will be restored to meadows.

The lot will be planted with a variety of native plants, wild grasses, and flowers creating habitats for pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies. Additionally, a woodchip path will be installed to benefit Brockport’s cross country team and the Department of Environmental Science & Ecology, which already uses the adjacent woods during labs.

“Facilities and Planning has provided faculty with an opportunity to help plan the meadow conversion project so that it can contribute to teaching and research efforts,” said James Zollweg, associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. “So, not only will the project save some money and improve the campus environment, but it will also contribute to the educational mission of the college.”

Rice developed the project after researching Cornell University’s extensive work in habitat restorations and the Seneca Park Zoo Society’s Butterfly Beltway, a conservation effort that has restored habitats at the Rochester Institute of Technology campus and across New York State’s Department of Transportation’s highways.

This summer, the zoo society is consulting with Brockport to identify the best seed mixture to plant and meet campus needs. The Zoo’s Director of Programming and Conservation Action Tom Snyder came to campus in May where stakeholders “hung out and dreamed a little bit of what is possible,” he said. “We want to be part of it.”

Rice and Snyder both are dreaming that this project will have integrated benefits. The size of the lot adds excitement to the project’s potential as other Butterfly Beltway projects have been as small as 100 square feet — Brockport’s will be 217,800 square feet. Synder hopes that the zoo will provide more than consulting. He sees potential in using the lot as lab space for conservation experts or to host community programs.

Having a meadow will benefit Brockport more than the cut grass ever did. While this project will lower Brockport’s carbon footprint, it’s also a substantial budgetary decision to save the college money. The total cost of the project is expected to be about $4,000. “The cost-benefit analysis of mowing, fuel, wear, and tear on equipment and risk management, within two years would pay for itself. And so that people don’t think we forgot to mow the meadows lot will have signs,” Rice said jokingly.

Rice is currently working to create a master landscape plan, for future grounds projects that would include more wildflower landscaping across the campus. That way more time can be devoted to the more prominent gardens. “Quality over quantity,” he said.