By Melanie Stewart
The University of Nebraska Medical Center has received $13,700 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the “Healing Local Landscapes: Turf Conversion Utilizing Native Prairie Plantings” project. Nebraska Medicine is a community partner on the grant.
This is the first year of the award with a potential for second year funding totaling $7,000. The project is one of the 118 projects receiving $20 million in grant awards this year from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
UNMC’s sustainability master plan includes such ambitious 2030 goals as net-zero building emissions and a neutral water footprint. The funded project would convert two campus turf areas to native prairie plants.
The grant covers costs for seed mixes (and carrier), which replicate mixed-grass prairies, and are designed for an urban environment to increase resources for pollinating insects and birds throughout the growing season. Benefits also include increased soil health, climate change mitigation by storing carbon, and reduced stormwater runoff. The sites are highly visible on the campus core and adjacent to the Field Club Trail. Students, faculty, staff and visitors to the medical center will have an opportunity to enjoy the native plantings and also learn about these species.
Two areas will be converted. The first is the hillside and adjoining space around parking lot 16 Lower, which is between the Truhlsen Eye Institute and Home Instead Center for Successful Aging. This space was designed to be grass, but lack of irrigation and the slope has made that difficult. Additionally, the slope is unsafe for the Grounds crew to mow, and is challenging to maintain. The second area to be converted will be both sides of parking lot 64. This space has been a challenge to grow sod (also not irrigated), a challenge to mow due to shape/trees/cars, and is adjacent to private property and the Field Club Trail. Converting these spaces will increase safety, reduce runoff, and remove weeds.
The grant also includes funding for educational signage that will highlight the prairie plantings. The project aligns with institutional goals of reducing long term irrigation, fuel dependency and increasing engagement with sustainability practices.
The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992 to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided more than $328 million in grants to over 2,300 projects across the state.