The Meadow: Sparking Wonder
The Meadow’s broadest goal is to raise awareness of the plight of grasslands worldwide: 45% have been destroyed, and only 4% are protected. The Beach Museum of Art in Manhattan, Kansas receives more than 30,000 visitors a year, many of them school children. And though this community is located near one of the largest intact grasslands in North America, many children and youth do not have opportunities to experience these grand landscapes.
The Meadow is a relational project on the K-State campus: it has evolved from faculty, student and staff collaboration and continues to attract new, talented people. The idea of a native plants landscape outside the Beach Museum began in 2011, in conversations between Kingery-Page and director of the Beach Museum of Art.
Very shortly, this team invited K-State Facilities and Planning, as well as other faculty and staff across campus to join the planning, design, and construction effort. In particular, the expertise of campus facilities and grounds was instrumental in the construction process. The Meadow is:
• a demonstration of sustainable landscaping that requires less watering and pesticide use than conventional lawn and fosters pollinator insects,
• a natural laboratory for a variety of both graduate and undergraduate research projects,
• a resource for the teaching of plant identification and native plants establishment,
• an experiential component for Beach Museum tours, allowing visitors to examine, touch, and smell some of the plants depicted in regionally significant art displayed in the Museum’s galleries,
• an extension of the work of museum educators to make meaningful connections among art, science, and enjoyment of the natural world.
Before installation, the team determined how existing turfgrass could be removed using very little chemical herbicide. The team selected what plants should be sown from among the 600+ native species growing in the Flint Hills, how planting would occur and the layout of paths and seating areas. Key consideration for design were the needs of plant species (sun versus shade and moisture requirements), aesthetic and safety considerations leading to plant selections of a medium height, and the need for shade and low-cost seating. Seating was imagined from waste wood from two decaying trees removed from site. Innovative installation techniques included reducing the use of herbicide to prepare the site and developing a biodegradable, low-cost erosion control system.
The Meadow is a community-built project: Site-furnishings and all planting on the three-quarter acre site have been created by Kingery-Page, students, and community volunteers.
In the second season of Meadow installation, an inter-disciplinary team of students from landscape architecture, biology, and art received funding from the Student Government Association to grow a second wave of plantings.
Ecologically, the Meadow team was most concerned with increasing bio-diversity on site, using as little herbicide and potable water as possible, and creating habitat and forage for insect pollinators. Because the Meadow is positioned to receive runoff from large areas of concrete, it also helps manage stormwater by slowing water, allowing more infiltration, and increasing evapotranspiration. The Meadow is not irrigated; plants receive only natural rainfall after their first season of growth. As a team, Kingery-Page and colleagues received an EPA grant to begin a teaching-based monitoring and outreach effort that will help evaluate ecosystem services provided by the Meadow.
The Meadow is possible thanks to:
The Hummel family in memory of Professor William C. Hummel and Sara T. Hummel
The John and John T. Henley Meadow Maintenance Fund
K-State Green Action Fund
Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art
K-State’s College of Architecture Planning and Design
EPA Green Infrastructure Demonstration Grant