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UL Lafayette planting "urban prairie" along Coulee Mine

urban prairie.jpg
Posted at 12:17 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 13:17:11-04

The UL Lafayette Ecology Center and its Office of Sustainability is planing to plant an "urban prairie" along Coulee Mine near Blackham Coliseum.

Native flowers and grasses will be planted along 4 acres of the waterway that bisects University Common behind Blackham Coliseum.

The University says that the Cajun Prarie Habitat and outdoor classroom will provide learning and research opportunities about storm water runoff management, native grasses and plants, bees and other pollinators and soil quality.

"That's one of the most important components of the project, because native plants' expansive, fibrous root systems hold soil, reducing erosion caused by storm water runoff. They slow water drainage, which reduces flooding, and also filter contaminants," explained Gretchen LaCombe Vanicor, director of the University's Office of Sustainability.

Switchgrass and Louisiana bluestar were planted along the coulee two years ago. The initiative recently received a $7,500 boost from CenterPoint Energy Foundation.

The University says that funding will enable the University's Ecology Center in Carencro to hire an undergraduate student researcher who will propagate and grow seeds for a variety of native plants.

The funds will also provide supplies and labor for planting, cultivation and for bringing compost and fertilizer from the university's experimental farm near Cade.

Students with the university's AmeriCorps program and Big Event will maintain the "urban prairie" along the coulee.

According to UL Lafayette, creating urban prairies on campus is an initiative of the University's Sustainability Strategic Plan and one that aligns with the Office of Sustainability's storm water management master plan. They say that areas like the urban prairie reduce the need for mowing, provide habitat for bees, bird, butterflies and other pollinators, and help reduce storm water runoff.

Other plans call for installation of hydrological sensors at the site, which will enable researchers to analyze soil over long periods for water quality, filtration capacity and carbon levels.

Students from the College of Engineering and the Louisiana Watershed Flood Center will be able to study flood control, while students from the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences will be able to examine soil quality, botany and insect and bird populations.

In addition to teaching, faculty research and student academic projects, UL Lafayette says that research gathered at the site will be shared with public officials and water management professionals "to inform community dialogue and decisions, including about implementing flood mitigation methods."

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