Volunteers Help Beautify Campus

EWU’s Cheney campus recently got some extra pampering thanks to the nearly 50 faculty and staff members who got down and dirty as part of a “spring clean-up” event on April 26.

Led by the EWU Grounds Maintenance crew, the Earth Week volunteer effort involved pulling weeds, spreading mulch and prettying up planting beds surrounding the campus mall, the science complex, the rose garden and the amphitheater.

Mother nature was kind, providing a slightly overcast but dry day with mild temperatures as Eagle employees donned their gardening gloves and worked in teams to get things done.

Sabine Rishell, an assistant director of donor engagement with EWU Advancement, said she enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and help.

“I’ve been pulling weeds, which is new for me. Someone had to point out which ones were weeds,” said Rishell, who grew up in Kansas.

The half-day effort made a visible difference, she said, adding, “There’s new bark everywhere. Something has been accomplished today.”

While having freshly weeded shrub and flower beds is visually appealing, Mary Voves, vice president of business and finance, told volunteers that EWU is intentionally leaving some dandelions intact. “We want them as part of our native landscape because it helps our pollinators.”

Chris Galow, one of the clean-up event participants, is a maintenance mechanic with the university’s carpenter shop and the president of Washington Federation of State Employees’ Local 931. Galow said the event was about collaborating to create a nice environment for students.

“All of us like to see a beautiful campus as it reflects on how we might take care of our buildings, as well as our classrooms and then how we might follow through with an environment that supports our students. It’s all connected,” he said.

Although employees have wanted to help with spring beautification projects for years, it took the support of President McMahan, Grounds Maintenance, and the Department of Business and Finance, which organized the event, to move it forward.

“I believe the grounds crew are appreciative of the work we are providing today, because we’re just giving them extra hands to help maintain what is a constant area of work in terms of the growth and cleaning of our grounds,” Galow said. “It’s a never-ending battle. Anything that grows you are constantly maintaining.”

Beyond making campus more attractive for everyone, including prospective students and families visiting the university for the first time, the effort also segues into the implementation of the university’s new Climate Resiliency Master Plan.

Erik Budsberg, director of sustainability at EWU, said the plan will transition campus grounds from water-loving grasses, shrubs and flowers to a landscape more representative of the local environment and biodiversity – one that includes plants that are drought-tolerant and support local pollinators.

Nate Bryant, an event organizer who serves as an executive assistant in business and finance, praised volunteers and Local 931 for making the spring cleanup day a success.

“I think we all love this campus,” said Bryant. “It’s a nice walking campus with lots of beautiful landscape. Being able to contribute to that – to help our Grounds’ team and build a little camaraderie – has been really, really exciting.”