As Kellogg Creek flows into the pond behind Building 1, a student in a nearby gathering circle completes a class assignment on a laptop, another sits and relaxes near the water’s edge while other students research the native flora.
This scene is the objective of Project Blue: To restore the riparian habitat of the Voorhis Ecological Reserve so it can serve as an outdoor classroom and become an oasis away from the bustling core of campus.
The restoration of the creek habitat will allow for the study of subjects such as water as a natural resource, environmental sustainability and biology, as well as serve as an educational tool for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.
Up until the start of Project Blue, trying to locate Kellogg Creek was no easy task. The creek had been hidden by tall overgrown foliage next to a hill behind Building 1. The Department of Facilities Design & Construction has overseen the riparian restoration project for the College of Science. Restoration work is expected be completed before the start of the university’s first fall semester on Aug. 23.
As much as Project Blue is about an ecosystem, the academic opportunities offered in a restored riparian habitat also are paramount to the project. Cal Poly Pomona and K-12 students and community members will be able to explore creek habitats in Southern California at a forthcoming Riparian Habitat Learning Center.
The restoration involved the removal of non-native vegetation so that water from the San Jose Hills can flow unfettered to Kellogg Creek. Native trees, shrubs, and perennials have been planted to shade the stream and provide a vital habitat for wildlife, improve water quality through natural biofiltration mechanisms, control surface runoff and erosion, and help moderate temperatures in the restoration area.
The latter stage of the restoration phase also yielded a discovery and a need for adaption for the project team. When the source of water from the hills was determined to be coming from a different direction than previously thought, an improvised pool in the streambed was created to help capture more of the water flow.
Project Blue also entailed the removal of several trees, the grading and trenching of the restoration site, the positioning of boulders to create a 32-foot-diameter gathering circle and the creation of a 6-foot wide concrete path.
In addition, the project will feature “Creek Cams” for observing wildlife. The cameras were a gift from the Class of 2015 in the College of Science.
University President Soraya M. Coley is scheduled to attend a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 25 to celebrate the completion of the restoration project.
The Ernest Prete Jr. Foundation provided funding for the restoration. The sustainability coordinator in Facilities also helped the project secure a grant from the CSU’s Campus As a Living Lab program.
While Project Blue offers ecological and academic benefits, the restoration also fits into the sustainability components of the next Campus Master Plan, which is expected to be completed in the fall for review by university administration. A consulting firm is working with the Master Plan Advisory Committee and campus stakeholders in fact-finding sessions that will touch nearly every aspect of the university.