What is the Palouse Prairie Restoration Project?
The Palouse Prairie Restoration project is a plan that will restore EWU farmland to native habitat and preserve natural land on campus that will foster research and educational opportunities, increase biodiversity, and provide recreational space on multi-use trails.
EWU Faculty from across the curriculum and facilities staff are collaborating on how to use the space as a living laboratory to develop research projects and hands on learning experiences for students. A network of multi-use trails will invite users to explore the landscape and connect with the bioregion. Historical and science based information kiosks will dot the area and inform visitors of the region’s natural and cultural heritage, as well as the present-day research projects taking place onsite. The restoration project is a multi-year project and we are currently in the initial stages of project design and baseline data collection. Once completed this project will serve as a regional example on how to promote science, sustainability, outdoor recreation, exploration, and community engagement while restoring landscapes to their native state.
A primary goal of the restoration project will be to expand learning opportunities for students and visitors to campus. We envision that the space will inspire outdoor exploration, connections to natural environments, and help to develop a strong a sense of place. To achieve these goals the site will include outdoor classroom spaces and informational kiosks. Outdoor classrooms will be available for instructional use, as well as a place for students looking to find a place to study. Kiosks, placed across the landscape, will provide information about the history of the land, its current state, and ongoing research projects. This minimal infrastructure will maintain a low profile on the natural landscape and will allow for both active and passive learning opportunities.
Converting the site from wheat cultivation to native grasslands will create many new opportunities for faculty and student research on EWU’s campus. The site will contain research plots and equipment to track progress and test various restoration techniques. Plant species, microbes, soil composition, and biodiversity will be monitored. Campus and community interactions with the site can be assessed and outdoor educators can test out new teaching methodologies. The site itself will serve as an opportunity to evaluate ways in which research and recreation can co-exist and thrive. An initial push for collecting baseline data has already begun. Some faculty and student researchers are already collecting and analyzing data. Many more are designing projects and applying for grants to fund onsite research for years to come. As these studies develop, this website will provide connections and updates to researchers and their projects.
A multi-use trail system will provide access to the restoration site and encourage exploration, recreation, and lead visitors to stunning 360 degree views of the Palouse Bioregion. The trail system will seek to accommodate those who wish to go for a walk, ride a mountain bike, sneak in a trail run before class, glide across the snow on cross country skies (when weather permits), and observe the ongoing restoration work. Through this trail system we are also seeking to make EWU a premier cross country running location. The trail system will be open to the campus community and all EWU visitors from dawn till dusk and will be a great resource for those looking to get outside.