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Whitworth building public garden at front of campus

After a destructive windstorm in November 2015, only two battered pine trees remained standing on a patch of land that marks the front entrance of Whitworth University.

Timbers were cleared from the triangular site, which is roughly a third of an acre bound by Hawthorne Road, Whitworth Drive and Ivanhoe Road. All that remained was dirt, a short concrete pathway and a damaged lawn.

“We kind of had this bare slate,” said John Jesseph, an arborist who heads the university’s groundskeeping department. “We looked at it and thought, ‘Well, what do we do with this?’ ”

Faculty members weighed in, and soon it was decided: The site would become a garden, with trees and benches and a babbling water feature.

The garden will be beautiful and open to the public, but it also will serve as a teaching aide for Whitworth science students, said Jesseph, whose team began replanting trees across the campus earlier this year.

“It will look really nice for the front of campus,” he said. “It’s not going to be just a bunch of random shrubs and bushes.”

The garden is being built by local contractor Land Expressions and is expected to be completed by early August, Jesseph said. It will be divided into three zones, each containing plant life native to the Pacific Northwest.

One zone will represent a dry forest such as the one that surrounds Spokane, with ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. Another zone will have a mix of conifers, including white pines, cedars and hemlocks, “that would be similar to what you have in North Idaho,” Jesseph said.

The third zone will have only a few trees, plus sagebrush and other shrubs that might be found in the Ritzville area, he said.

Several pathways will lead to a small lighted “courtyard” in the middle of the garden, and each zone will have a bench and a WiFi hotspot so students can work on their computers, Jesseph said. During class time, science professors can bring students to the garden to observe plant characteristics during each season, he said.

The scenery also will include a water feature made from a boulder that will generate peaceful background noise, Jesseph said. The garden will have no fence around it, but it will be surrounded by a strip of grass.

It will be named the Nelson Garden after a family that has made large donations to Whitworth and participated in missionary work, Jesseph said.


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