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Environmental center dedicated

April 25, 2011
Fred L. Tobiason, Reed Ojala-Barbour and President Loren J. AndersonFred L. Tobiason,Reed Ojala-Barbour and President Loren J. Anderson at the dedication of the Fred L. Tobiason Outdoor Learning Center in April. (Photo by John Froschauer)

Fred L. Tobiason Outdoor Learning Center dedicated

By Kari Plog ’11

With a single snip of a blackberry vine, students and staff made a mark for sustainability on the PLU campus last week.

Monday, April 18, saw one of the first sunny days of 2011, and with that came the dedication of the Fred L. Tobiason Outdoor Learning Center, a project more than a year in the making. The dedication was a part of Pacific Lutheran University’s Earth Week event lineup.

“So many people have come together for this project,” said senior Reed Ojala-Barbour, sustainability fellow and habitat restoration volunteer coordinator. “It makes me thankful for the network of support here at PLU.”

That support Ojala-Barbour speaks of is the volunteer effort that piloted the habitat restoration site, which was the beginning project leading to the new learning center. The site has seen frequent work parties by PLU students, community members and local high school students to improve PLU’s local habitat.

Ojala-Barbour started the Urban Habitat Restoration project in 2009. Prior to the project, the site was inaccessible due to dense thickets of Himalayan blackberries. This invasive species has affected a critically threatened a species of oak tree that is native to the area and grows on the PLU grounds.

After more than a year of maintenance and volunteer efforts by Ojala-Barbour and other students and community members, the site was officially dedicated as the Fred L. Tobiason Outdoor Learning Center, in the name of Fred Tobiason, Ph.D. and professor emeritus of chemistry.

“You have to have a place that supports sustainability,” Tobiason said, who was in attendance at the dedication of the site. “I hope students continue on the same path they are on now. We will need all the help in the future.”

The ceremony saw an attendance of roughly 60 students, faculty, staff and community members. President Loren J. Anderson, Ojala-Barbour and Tobiason all had the honor of cutting a blackberry vine with garden sheers – an appropriate substitution for the traditional ribbon cutting.

Kenny Stancil ‘13, ASPLU sustainability director, led a Litany of Thanksgiving as part of the ceremony, in which faculty, staff and students read inspirational quotes about environmental consciousness, highlighting PLU’s mission of sustainability and stewardship for the earth.

“This event highlights what an important project this is,” Stancil said. “We need to be more mindful of the ways we impact the environment. It’s the right thing to do.”

The site of the Outdoor Learning Center used to be referred to as “The Jungle” due to the mass of invasive species, said senior Emma Kane, habitat volunteer coordinator. The efforts volunteers made to improve the natural habitat on the site will continue, and President Anderson said, adding this effort speaks to more than simply maintenance of an area.

“It’s incredibly important to the university, the community and to sustainability to be good stewards of the earth,” Anderson said. “It’s been the whole community pulling together in a way that’s distinctive.”

Students can visit the newly-dedicated site behind the University Center. The area is marked with a sign bearing archive photographs of Tobiason and includes with information about the project. Volunteer efforts are ongoing and those wishing to volunteer should contact Sustainability Manager Chrissy Cooley through the Office of Sustainability.