On-campus stadium construction moves horticulture gardens north of UCA

Tony Villalobos

Where the new on-campus stadium is currently under construction, a perennial demonstration garden once flourished. The construction of the on-campus stadium forced the gardens to move north of the University Center of the Arts.

The decision to move the gardens was made by University President Tony Frank, said horticulture professor Jim Klett, Ph.D.

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The horticulture department was given several options on where to move the garden, including south of the stadium, where it would not be accessible to the department, and south of campus, which is a flood plain and not ideal for the gardens.

The department decided on the area north of the University Center for the Arts, next to the Annual Flower Trial Gardens, which is the most visited spot in Northern Colorado, according to Klett.

The annual trial gardens are a popular spot for visitors in Fort Collins, and Klett hopes that having the gardens nearby will raise interest.

Klett also hopes to work with the City of Fort Collins to create a Garden Art District and incorporate more aspects of the UCA’s art as well.

Some horticulture students initially voiced concerns about the new stadium’s construction.

“The first initial reaction was a real shock that moving the garden was even considered as an option,” wrote Andrew Sameshima, a senior horticulture major in an email to the Collegian. “This did upset many within the department because of the cost and risk of moving the perennial garden.”

Sameshima wrote that the news of the move was at first difficult for those in the department to accept.

“At first it was difficult to accept because I know how much hard work has gone into this garden,” Sameshima wrote. “But, as the move occurred, many within the Horticulture department began to feel grateful that the garden would have a new and improved home.”

The plants are already being moved to the new site at the UCA.

“All the plants will be very small, and we will continue to water them through the winter and hope they survive (the move),” Klett said.

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The original perennial gardens are not the only horticultural area being moved; the previous horticulture building will also be replaced, and includes several new greenhouses for the students and faculty.

The perennial gardens are part of the Plant Environmental Research Center. The other areas of PERC are the greenhouses with a hedge collection, arboretum, small student vegetable farm that includes a small grape vineyard, Turfgrass research plots and the Plant Select Trial Garden.

The new Heritage Garden is currently in construction next to the stadium (Christian Johnson l Collegian)
The new Heritage Garden is currently in construction next to the stadium (Christian Johnson l Collegian)

“The site location will actually be a better site, since we have lost all of our other locations to the new stadium,” Klett said about the move to the UCA. “It will combine the plant work as demonstration into one area that will be very visible.”

The perennial garden is expected to be finished by 2017, and the final walk through of the garden will occur this spring, which means the transition time will take, in total, about a year and three months.

“Now that the perennial garden is close to the Annual Trial Garden, I believe it will get more recognition for the beauty and research it provides for the plant industry and those interested in horticulture,” Sameshima wrote.

The new stadium will also include a new Heritage Garden as an addition to the existing arboretum that will serve as an entranceway. This project is also expected to be finished by the stadium’s opening.

Klett said that students will now have the ability to work more in greenhouses and will continue being able to grow their own vegetables, even if the distances in horticulture work spaces are now wider than before.

“All of our students now have a better facility,” Klett said.

Not all students have warmed up to the idea. There have been concerns among horticulture majors and frustrations from students who do not feel they got a say in the issue.

“I feel it was almost like a betrayal to the students themselves,” said senior horticulture major Sean Vanuos. “Because, being based as an agricultural college, it’s why we paint the A every year. It was not spoken about as nearly as much as it should have been.”

Despite initial concerns, the horticulture department is hoping to attract more students to the department and offer additional services to their students in the future.

“It (has) been a trying time for all of us, we’ve been very busy with all of these moves and with everything else we normally have to do,” Klett said. “Ultimately, we will all come out from the better side of this.”

Klett and his team have been working hard to preserve the plants as they continue their research.

“It’s been my lifeblood,” Klett said. “I have been here 37 years and basically started the perennial garden and the arboretum. I want to see it enhanced and utilized more to educate people about plants and the beauty of life that comes from that.”

Collegian reporter Tony Villalobos May can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TonyTheGnarly.