Baylor needs landscape diversity

By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer

I’ve heard people joke more than a few times that a freshman rite of passage is tweeting about how much Baylor waters the sidewalks. We collectively suffer whenever there’s a sprinkle of rain because of the immediate flooding on campus. The river is so near and the drainage is so poor that within moments, there can be calf-deep puddles.

Monocultures of shrubbery and grasses are not only harmful to Baylor’s environment, they are expensive.

I won’t pretend I know more than the Facility Services team and all the people who work hard to keep Baylor ecologically friendly and energy efficient. However, the main characteristics of Baylor’s landscaping have not changed in a very long time — at least since I was a small child visiting campus.

Baylor received a Green Star Honor Award for excellence in maintaining campus grounds from the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) in the mid-size University and College Grounds category in January, according to a Baylor press release.

However, I think we can do better.

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Extension, native plants can have a greater drought tolerance, which would require less water, leading the university to not fully saturate grass before rainfall, and would be more heat-tolerant.

Though St. Augustine grass, which covers the majority of campus, is native to the region, the lack of diversity in the grassy areas is one of the reasons Baylor floods. The runners that St. Augustine uses to reproduce can get too thick and not allow drainage, though they help with retaining the structure of the land. Breaking up the vast expanses with other native plants could help drain the excess water that both rain and sprinklers produce.

The publication also recommends varying height and porosity while planning landscaping. Baylor is on an incline, but that essentially amounts to a bank of the Brazos River. Adding more portions of gravel, ground-cover and mulch could improve drainage, reduce the amount of water Baylor needs to keep plants thriving and actually increase the visual appeal of campus.

I encourage campus organizations to push for closer monitoring of and improvements to the landscaping. We are learning to be informed consumers — we should inform ourselves now. I don’t think we should put up with chronic flooding if it can be helped.

Groups could also push for Baylor Facility Services to do more research into diversifying and adding more native or water-conserving alternatives and elements to our already beautifully landscaped campus. There’s always room for improvement.

Lizzie is a junior journalism major from Waco.