Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 56.72
Liaison Christie-Joy Hartman
Submission Date May 12, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

James Madison University
IN-25: Innovation B

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Christie-Joy Hartman
Executive Director
Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
East Campus Hillside Project

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

JMU has leveraged facilities and operations investments to directly support student education by expanding the vision of the role of the grounds. Specifically, the East Campus Hillside Naturalization Project transformed a typically managed lawn area into a natural educational landscape that diversifies the campus aesthetic, approaches the landscape as an ecosystem, demonstrates environmental stewardship, and most importantly, provides educational space outside. The project is ongoing with changes and expansion occurring continually.

The initial work on three areas of the hillside was funded creatively using five different resources: JMU student-faculty projects, JMU academic support, JMU facilities support, a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) community partnership grant, and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) in-kind services. The phases were replicating a tall grass prairie meadow, planting trees, and restoring a stream. The fourth phase is under development now.

Phase 1, the 1.6 acre native meadow, contains a total of 29 species of native plants and provides valuable wildlife habitat on campus. The replacement of traditional fescue grass by the meadow reduces the potential for pollutant runoff into the stream channel from traditional turf management practices. It also reduces the potential for erosion from the hillside meadow by establishing deep rooted vegetation. Additionally, the naturalized meadow was planted in multiple strips along the contour to provide an example of the common practice in conservation agriculture of contour farming. Scholar-In Residence Michael Singer facilitated the visioning for the overall project and the design of the meadow portion of the project 2011. He was supported by JMU's academic programs. A unique aspect of the project is that students (as part of their courses and capstone projects) worked with faculty to contribute to the overall vision and the design of the meadow. Soil sampling and analysis have occurred annually since the beginning of the project. In 2015, compost was added to specific meadow plots. Subsequently, soil changes were monitored and analyzed by students completing ISAT 320 courses and a student conducting an honors thesis.

The 2 acre tree planting area contains 25 different species of trees, with 2 species of each tree planted. The trees were selected based on aesthetics and screening as well as usefulness for education. Many trees are native and included overstory hardwoods, understory hardwoods, and gymnosperms. A number of species of trees not commonly found elsewhere on campus were included in this area to help promote the biodiversity of trees on campus. An ongoing committee composed of staff and faculty identified the trees, and JMU Facilities Management funded these and continues to fund additions. In 2016, the tree area was mapped. In 2017, mulch was added around the trees, which decreased mowing and created greater distance between mowers and the trees.

The third phase, a ~1,000 feet of restored stream channel and associated riparian buffer, provide valuable protection for the nearly 600 acre urbanized watershed that drains to this area. Initiated in 2012, the stream restorations were funded in part by a NFWF grant ("Community Solutions to Stormwater Pollution in Blacks Run,") awarded to a community partnership which included JMU, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, City of Harrisonburg, Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The partnership received $325,000 in grant funding and focused on reducing stormwater pollution and enhancing stormwater management on three scales in the Blacks Run Watershed: the neighborhood / individual, the institutional, and the community / watershed scale. As part of this grant, JMU received $122,000 of the NFWF funds and an additional $10,000 in federal funds. JMU's East Campus Hillside stream restoration was one of the institutional scale elements funded. Specifically, 1,100 feet of stream channel directly adjacent to the East Campus Hillside was restored with these grant funds. (Using the remaining grant funds, JMU installed a bioretention filter and completed a second stream restoration project over approximately another 2,000 linear feet elsewhere on campus but within the same campus watershed.) Other support for the stream restoration was provided by VDGIF who assisted with the planning, design, permitting and construction oversight for these projects at no cost to JMU. This partnership significantly reduced the overall monetary cost to JMU for the restoration activities. The in-stream work was completed by a specialized excavation contractor that had extensive experience completing stream restoration projects with VDGIF. The JMU Facilities Management Grounds Department completed the vegetative bank stabilization and riparian plantings. Additional plantings have been completed within the last three years. JMU has an objective in the Facilities Management Sustainability Plan to complete the installation of riparian buffers and naturalized areas along all streams (100%) on campus by 2020.

The project helps to support the goals of the university's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program, the local Blacks Run TMDL, and the regional Chesapeake Bay TMDL by removing pollutants before they can pass downstream to these water bodies. Based on guidance from the Chesapeake Bay Program's Urban Stormwater Workgroup, it is estimated that the stream restoration project removes a total of 200 pounds of nitrogen, 68 pounds of phosphorus and 155 tons of sediment per year from the watershed. Before restoration, the stream channel was highly degraded, with severely eroding stream banks and an unstable stream bed. The restoration activity reconnected the stream with the floodplain and created an appropriately sized stream channel and riparian buffer that could withstand the erosive effects of urbanized runoff.

Most importantly, the hillside area serves as an outdoor laboratory for education and scholarship. Signage and online information were added in 2015 using a grant from Pure Water Forum and the Environmental Protection Agency's Section 117 Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant (Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), via contract number 15984). A live streaming webcam is being installed this summer using funds from a gift.

Courses that had engaged with the hillside as of 2015 were
GEOG 210: Physical Geography
GEOG 290: Human Interactions with the Physical Environment
GEOG 322: Agricultural Systems
GEOG 340: Biogeography
GEOG 470: Senior Seminar on Global Biodiversity
GEOG 390-490-496: Capstones
ISAT 112: Environmental Issues in Science and Technology
ISAT 320: Fundamentals of Environmental Science
ISAT 424/GEOG 342: Natural Resource Management
ISAT 429/GEOG 429: Sustainability- An Ecological Perspective
BIO 366: Plants and Environment

Specific examples of learning objectives and assignments for undergraduate courses in geography and environmental science were provided as part of a 50-minute workshop at the Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference, 2015. These included examples of historical ecology, biogeography, and soil science assignments as follows...

ISAT 320: Fundamentals of Environmental Science
Learning Objectives:
1. Identify plant species and populations
2. Execute proper field techniques for soil collection and preparation for storage and analysis
3. Articulate fundamental soil properties

GEOG 470: Geographic Science Senior Seminar, Global Biodiversity
Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the importance of expertise for identification of species
2. Describe how biodiversity of butterfly species is measured
3. Explain how expertise influences knowledge of global biodiversity
4. Develop a guide to butterflies

GEOG 390-490-495: Senior Capstone
Learning objectives:
1. Supply the university with a keyed guide for plant identification for future use
2. Create a baseline of the meadow’s development through transect survey of vegetation
3. Analyze vegetation distribution based on recommendations outlined by the Society for Ecological Restoration International Primer

A plan for the fourth phase of the hillside is scheduled to be completed in summer 2017 by faculty and students in collaboration with the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability.


Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Curriculum
Grounds

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
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The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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