The four colossal construction projects ongoing this summer at Sacramento State – Riverview Hall, Parking Structure V, the Science Complex, and the University Union’s renovation/expansion – made hard hats and heavy equipment a common sight around campus.

Emerging from the temporary construction chaos were three sustainable, mostly turf-free mini parks that will give students new and inviting places to congregate. The newly re-landscaped areas require minimal irrigation and will save an estimated 820,000 gallons of water annually.

Among their aesthetic features are shade trees, drought-tolerant plants, decorative river rock (some arranged to simulate dry creek beds), scattered boulders, and new seating.

The $253,000 Landscape Sustainability Renovations Project, funded by the University Budget Advisory Committee (UBAC), created the little parks outside Lassen and Kadema halls and the University Union. Also part of the project is new landscaping along the road adjacent to Lot 6, which saves an additional 270,000 gallons of water each year.

“We started thinking about the project during the drought, and we identified areas where we could remove turf and replace it with sustainable materials,” says Paul Serafimidis, the University’s director of sustainability and plant operations. “And this was a good opportunity to make places for students to gather with additional seating.”

Phase 1 of the Landscape Sustainability Renovations Project by the numbers:

  • Turf removed: 30,000 square feet (along with an inefficient, 40-year-old spray irrigation system)
  • New trees planted: 19, including mature valley oaks
  • New in-ground plantings: 2,700 native, drought-tolerant varieties
  • New seating: Five metal benches shaded by free-standing pergolas and 200 linear feet of concrete seatwalls.

The University has plans to renovate six additional sites, including the North Quad, University Arboretum tunnel, and the esplanade at the front of campus when funding becomes available.

MTW Group, the local landscape architecture firm that created the Japanese Tea Garden at the University Library and the steps descending the American River levee to the Guy West Plaza, designed all 10 “green” renovations.

The re-landscaping further strengthens Sacramento State’s commitment to environmental stewardship. In 2016, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) gave Sac State a Gold rating and a score of 72.18 – the highest in the 23-campus CSU system.– Dixie Reid