(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University students and staff will make use of a charitable donation at one of the best places on campus for social distancing when they complete the restoration of a “wet meadow” area on Friday at The Farm at SOU.
The wetland was previously overgrown with blackberries and other invasive species, but has recently been cleared and a new boardwalk that originates at the Thalden Pavilion has been built into the area. About five student employees and interns will work with associate professor Vincent Smith, director of The Farm, to plant a variety of native plants beginning at about 3 p.m. on Friday.
“The plants are all native wetland plants and will be used exclusively to create habitat and as a tool for teaching about the value of wet meadows,” Smith said.
Funding for the restoration project was provided by local philanthropists Barry and Kathryn Thalden of Ashland. An earlier donation from the Thaldens paid for construction in 2018 of the adjacent pavilion that bears their name.
SOU is offering 98 percent of the courses that were originally scheduled for spring term – all by remote instruction or online platforms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All campus buildings are closed to the public, and students and employees have been urged to wear face masks and strictly observe safe social distancing.
But the 5 ½-acre property at The Farm offers a unique opportunity to get at least a handful of students outside and working on a project that supports the university’s commitment to sustainability. The Farm could have been shut down while the university is in remote operation, but doing so would have cost eight students the jobs they rely upon to help pay for school.
“The reason The Farm at SOU is still operating is because we can guarantee outdoor distanced work,” said Smith, chair of the university’s Environmental Science and Policy program. “The students have all received distancing training.”
The Farm, on Walker Street in Ashland, serves as a venue for organic agriculture and a source of healthy, sustainable food for the SOU community. It is also a center for sustainability and a hub for education, student and faculty research, and community outreach to the Rogue Valley.