As part of the 2025 University Master Plan, students and faculty worked to improve Campus Creek. The creek runs through the Manhattan campus and receives most of the rainwater that falls on campus. It will serve as a research model for sustainable stormwater management methods.
The project uses sustainable improvements to make Campus Creek the core of campus, from education to recreation and research. But there’s another goal: to help students see interdisciplinary work as the core of successful research and application. Canfield and Tim Keane, professor of landscape architecture, combined their skills to lead the project.
Keane’s specialty is fluvial geomorphology and natural channel restoration, while Canfield is an expert in creating socially engaging, design-oriented landscapes. Project collaborations included:
• Ryan McGrath, instructor of civil engineering, and graduate students surveyed the creek and created elevation maps and hydrologic models.
• Landscape architects created vegetation maps that geo-locate trees and green space.
• Biological and agricultural engineers analyzed water and soil samples with Philip Barnes, associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering.
• Campus planning and facilities management staff members, including Ryan Swanson, associate vice president, helped the researchers address real design situations on campus.
Canfield and Keane used the data while co-teaching more than 14 students during the fall 2015 semester course focused on restoring Campus Creek. Keane helped students develop a stable stream channel that floods less frequently. Canfield guided student-designed creek improvements, such as new trails, outdoor classrooms, informal gathering spaces and additional vegetation.
Canfield and Keane saw the project as a way to integrate different perspectives of engineers and landscape architects. While engineers often focus on efficiency, safety and numbers first — such as channel capacity or storage capacity — landscape architects often focus on visual aspects and ecological functions first.
“Engineers and landscape architects do similar things, but do them in different sequences,” Keane said. “They can work independently, but when you put them together you get a much stronger product and a much more resilient stream system.”
The purpose of the project was to transform and restore Campus Creek into a resilient, multifunctional stormwater conveyance system, which serves to mitigate flooding, restore local ecosystems, and provide recreational open space in the heart of the K-State campus. Findings of the project informed development of the K-State 2015 North Campus Corridor Master Plan.
The project was sponsored by the provost's office and was completed as a gift to K-State from the landscape architecture program in honor of its 50th anniversary.