On the north side of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, there is an area where native Kansas grasses like Kansas Bluestem and other native flowers grow. According to Katie Kingery-Page, assistant professor of landscape architecture/regional and community planning, the Meadow was created as a way of merging science, technology, engineering, math and art.
The Meadow all started with the vandalism of a stone sculpture created by both Dan Snow and landscape architecture students at K-State in 2009. The sculpture once stood where the Meadow now grows.
Kingery-Page said that just as the Kansas prairie is burned every summer to help the ecosystem grow back stronger than before, the destruction of the sculpture served a similar purpose. It opened discussion for how to use the space – resulting in the Meadow.
“If good comes out of bad sometimes, it opened our thinking to how we could really have a gathering space here,” Kingery-Page said. “And we repurposed. After contacting the artist to be sure that he agreed, we repurposed all that stone and that’s what you see incorporated into this design.”
Kingery-Page said that discussions started in 2011 when Dan Snow’s sculpture still occupied the space and Linda Duke became the new director of the Beach Museum. Duke approached her and was interested in creating a place where people could be immersed in nature.
“After Linda opened that conversation I was thrilled because native planting design is one of my focus areas,” Kingery-Page said.
Kingery-Page had worked before with the museum in 2009 on Snow’s sculpture, which she said was important because they knew she understood what they needed and what their goals were.
“We had studied this site extensively,” Kingery-Page said. “We understood the views, what’s happening underground with utilities, and we understood this site really clearly.”
About three months after discussions began in 2011 on how to best utilize it, the sculpture was vandalized to the point that it had to be destroyed.
Kingery-Page said the sculpture was made of limestone donated by Bayer Construction, brought in from Steven’s Quarry, about 20 miles away. After the vandalism of the sculpture, the limestone was saved, broken down and used to make rocks that now line the pathway inside the Meadow.
From the Division of Facilities to the Division of Grounds, Kingery-Page said there were many people who played a part in the creation of the Meadow.
“We needed them,” Kingery-Page said. “We have needed them every step of the way because they know how to get things built in terms of landscape at K-State.”
This included a donation from the from the Hummel family in memory of Professor William C. Hummel and Sara T. Hummel.
“This is not costing students or the university money,” Kingery-Page said. “This has been privately funded through the generosity of the Hummel family. There are many others who have donated materials, time, service, labor, so there have been lots of other donations going on. But the financial funding that allowed us to install this came from the Hummel family.”
Once the idea of the Meadow set in, the process of growing it began. Richard Dean Prudenti, graduate student in landscape architecture and special projects coordinator for the museum, said that the first thing organized was a volunteer day.
“We had a number of volunteers out here seeding nearly the entire site except for the edges,” Prudenti said.
Zak Ratajczak, graduate student in biology, said the reason it’s called the “Meadow” instead of something more like “Prairie” is that there are more trees in it than found in a typical prairie setting. But the goal was to get as close to that as possible without loosing the visual appeal of the place, all while still planting only native plants.
Today, the Meadow has a significant population of weeds. Kingery-Page said that even while this is undesirable, the Meadow looks like it should being only one year into it’s growth.
“This type of planting and landscaping takes time,” Kingery-Page said. “It grows in slowly, we control the weeds slowly as it grows in, and the idea is that every year the native plants become a little more established, a little more robust, and the balance begins to tip from weeds to those natives that are planted. But it does take several years to really see the landscape as it’s intended.”
Prudenti said that the maintenance of the Meadow is time and labor intensive. At times, a person will spend up to two hours watering a certain section of plants to make sure that the water is actually getting down into the root systems, rather than just evaporating.
“The watering is done by hand, it’s not on some system that is watering unnecessarily,” Prudenti said. “Our eyesight and watering, guided by Katie, is really targeted.”
Also intensive was the process of getting the benches created. Landon Hubbard, senior in architecture, said they were given four logs and told to make them into benches. The logs were of two of the Hackberry trees that had stood where the Meadow is now.
“They were cut down for safety reason and they may have died anyway,” Prudenti said. “And they were repurposed, reused to make these benches.”
Hubbard estimated that each bench took around 40 hours to make. The students had a two week deadline to finish the project, which included figuring out a way to get the benches to sit off the ground to protect them from water and insects. This was accomplished by creating a ski-like system specifically for this project.
“It started off complex and went simple in a hurry, which is always a good thing.” Hubbard said.
Kingery-Page said there are a number of projects going forward to help support the Meadow. Volunteers are always sought to help with maintenance, including cutting weeds, watering plants and helping seed.
Going forward, Kingery-Page said the goal is to make the Meadow self-sustaining.
“The longer term goal is that after two to three years, we will not water at all in this landscape,” Kingery-Page said. “We just have to give these plants a chance to get established.”