Spring is here — which means everything is in bloom. Many walk from one class to the next without thinking about the thriving greenery around campus, but the landscape and gardens are something Cal Poly Pomona puts a lot of thought and time into designing. 

One of the most recent additions to campus was the landscape around the new Student Services Building. Plans for this landscape design started way back in 2011. 

“Once it was decided where the site of the new building would be and the square footage, we started working collaboratively with the building architect to design the landscape,” said Brad Lents, the lead landscape architect and principal of Spurlock, the landscape architecture firm CPP hired for the job. “The idea was to have the landscape and land around the building mimic the foothills. We wanted to make it look like the building was growing out of the ground.”

 The next step after the initial design concept is decided is presenting the design concepts to the facilities group and CPP administrators. 

The idea for the landscape and land surrounding the SSB was to mimic the foothills. (Brenlyn D’Amore / The Poly Post)

Once it is approved by these groups, the design plan is then brought to the Cal State Board of Trustees for another round of approval so funding can be released. 

“The Board of Trustees makes sure we aren’t using too much water,” Lents said. “We are using durable materials that are maintainable; they want to know what type of irrigation will be installed and if the plants we planned on using were drought resistant.”

Once everything is approved, sourcing of the plants and materials begins — which means landscape construction can commence once the building is ready for it. 

One of the biggest problems that arose during the landscaping around the Student Services Building was the overwhelming amount of pests. 

“The Shot Hole Borer is a beetle that bores into the trunks of trees and kills them. It is a common problem in Southern California and it was a big problem at the beginning, with several of the native trees we were planting,” Lents said. 

“We ended up having to find trees that were more pest resistant.”

Despite the pest problem, the landscaping around the Student Services Building turned out well and is currently flourishing. 

“I’m very happy with the end result. We are still sort of seeing how the plants are doing and responding to the weather, and seeing if students are using certain areas in the way it was intended to be used,” Lents said.

Another exciting and recent addition to CPP’s landscape is the area behind Building 1, known as “Project Blue.”

Most students and staff did not know there was a natural creek behind Building 1, before Project Blue was complete. 

The idea behind it came from biology professors Tina Hartney and Edward Bobich. 

“Project Blue happened by chance. One day I was meeting with the dean of the College of Science, Dr. Srinivas, and the associate dean, Dr. Hartney, late in fall quarter 2011,” said Edward Bobich, professor of biological sciences. “The dean wanted to know what we should do for the Campus Water Initiative, which was created to emphasize water on our campus.  I told him that there was a stream which we named Kellogg Creek, that started at Forest Lawn and ran through the Voorhis Ecological Reserve until it ended in a drain in Parking Lot A (north of Building 1), as well as springs behind Building 1, where Project Blue is now, and that we could do something with those water sources.” 

A main focus for Project Blue was the biodiversity aspect of it. Hartney and Bobich wanted it to be a place where students could learn.

“Having a combination of a natural water source and native plants was really important to the project. We find out which plants are native to the area by looking at other stream areas that are undisturbed and see what plants are there. There is also known botanical history on what plants are native to certain areas,” said Brendan Kempf, the project designer and landscape architect for Studio MLA, the landscape architecture firm in charge of the project.

Project Blue was a great idea from the start but the process to make Bobich’s idea a reality wasn’t easy. The approval process required many steps.

Funding for Project Blue came from a $200,000 donation from the Ernest Prete Jr. Foundation. 

Bobich explained that they had to get a donor and then pitch it to the university. After its approval, a landscape architecture firm had to be hired, and then they discussed designs for months. After that, the design was put up for bid. 

This project was a seven-year process from the initial discussions, to planning, to designing and construction. 

Project Blue is now a place where students can study about riparian habitats around the creek, learn about the native plants, relax under an umbrella and enjoy the scenery and natural sound of running water.

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