Campus entrance to go from gray to green

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A $1.5 million recent trustee donation will fund a renovation to the campus main entrance to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of Occidental’s relocation to its current campus. The construction, scheduled to be completed this summer, will replace part of the driveway with green space. College planners hope the renovation of the entrance will be a highly visible start of a larger campaign of sustainable landscaping and development with the aim of pedestrianizing the campus.

The new space will be an extension of the hillside around Gilman Fountain and the main steps. The paved area of the driveway above the entrance to the Bell Field parking lot will be replaced with grass. A footpath lined by 40-year-old olive trees and other drought-resistant plants will extend to the fountain, replacing the circle drive and parking spaces

President Jonathan Veitch believes the renovations will provide visitors with a better representation of the campus’s beauty.

“We have an extraordinary campus and we’ve basically turned our entrance into a parking lot,” Veitch said. “You could arrive at Oxy and not know any of the college’s beauty.”

Veitch puts the project in the context of a broad-based effort to develop more sustainable practices and make the campus more accessible to pedestrians through the expansion of green spaces, which reduce runoff and promote water capture.

“This is one of those projects where we put our money where our mouth is in terms of sustainability,” Polansky said.

According to professor of biology Gretchen North, removing an area of asphalt will reduce the amount of water that flows off campus property through the entrance. By increasing the amount of water which is absorbed back into the ground, the college will decrease the strain on the city’s drainage system.

Polansky said the digging of a bioswale, a trench designed to collect rainwater, could reduce levels of silt in runoff.

“The best design marries together tightly sustainability and aesthetics. And I think this does that quite nicely. We should be able to use minimal amounts of irrigation,” Polansky said.

North advised the project during the planning phase and sees it as a step in the right direction.

“I would have liked to see more native plants in the design, but they are often more expensive and harder to establish,” North said. “I was glad to be a part of the thinking and I do believe it represents a new commitment to more sustainable landscaping.”

Future plans include the expansion of lawns and gardens along Bird Road, which will reduce parking spots available on lower campus, and the replacement of water-needy plants with counterparts more suited to the climate.

“Sustainable growth occurs with big projects and incremental process,” Director of Communications James Tranquanda said.