The rain stopped. The sun shone. The drums beat, and even the hawks showed up for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Washington State University Arboretum and Wildlife Conservation Center Thursday afternoon, which also was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
Approximately 80 people gathered to break ground on the new project and participate in a Native American blessing of the land it will encompass.
“It took many people working over many decades to get us where we are today,” said Rod Sayler, chairman of the Arboretum and Wildlife Conservation Center Committee. “It is a very good day for WSU.”
Phase 1 of the project focuses on creation of about two miles of trails on the property as well as construction of a “Gathering Circle”, a meeting place in the heart of the arboretum.
In 2007, President Floyd provided an opportunity for a 100-acre arboretum to be established on the eastern edge of the Pullman campus. WSU Capital Planning and Development coordinated a planning committee to develop a master plan for a site that has been managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than 60 years. The site and vision has expanded to 170 acres and includes facilities for grizzly bears and wild herbivores. It plans for a biodiversity center, an outdoor raptor amphitheater, trails and demonstration gardens as well as the Gathering Circle.
Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences – the academic home for the new center, credited WSU President Elson S. Floyd with helping to make its creation a reality. “Dr. Floyd understands the importance of a university having a space like this,” Bernardo said, “not only as a place for teaching, research and extension, but also for our community and state as a place to serve as a cornerstone for the visitor’s experience to WSU.”
Sam Penny, Nez Perce tribal chairman, said, “I applaud WSU for continuing to honor its origins as a land-grant university by providing a place for practical education.” He called the arboretum and wildlife conservation center project “a great educational tool.”
Penny noted that the land on which the project will be built is part of the tribe’s original home. He introduced tribal elder Horace Axtell, who sang a blessing of the land and asked “the Creator to take care of this Earth from now on.” The Spirit of the Renegade drum circle also performed.