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New arboretum is in the planning stages at DCTC

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Over the summer, Chris Hayes travelled around Minnesota to several arboretums. He was gathering ideas.

The Dakota County Technical College grants and sustainability coordinator had an idea for the campus and he wanted to see how feasible it was. It turns out, establishing an accredited arboretum on DCTC's campus is definitely doable. As such, the DCTC Beauty of Green Initiative was born.

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"The goal is to ultimately turn campus into an arboretum. It's really feasible," said Hayes.

According to Merriam-Webster an arboretum is a place where trees, shrubs and plants are grown for scientific and education purposes. Hayes envisions plans at DCTC would also include botanical gardens throughout campus.

"We want to turn it into something that's visually a great place," said Hayes.

Outside of aesthetics, Hayes said establishing the arboretum makes sense because it will make a major sustainability impact in the area while providing a number of education and outreach opportunities for students and the community at large.

Several years ago, DCTC committed to becoming a sustainable campus. The Beauty of Green Initiative falls in line with that commitment by offering a goal to make a big impact not just on campus but regionally. While saving paper and cutting emissions can help, Hayes said creating a large green area will have a much larger impact.

While not part of this plan, the campus has already made moves toward making its campus grounds more sustainable. Several years ago DCTC restored the north edge of its property along County Road 42 back to native prairie. Hayes said the prairie effort ties in nicely to the overall idea for the arboretum.

Besides making a sustainability impact, the educational opportunities the arboretum could provide are in line with the school's goals to increase opportunities for students and employees to participate in service learning, sustainability and civic engagement activities.

Hayes said the arboretum will provide a wide range of learning opportunities for students and staff in a number of departments. Additionally, the arboretum will provide a regional educational center for people of all ages from nearby communities.

As a way to start the process, Matt Brooks, a member of DCTC's landscape horticulture program, drew up a proposal.

Hayes said the next step is creating a master plan. For the most part, Hayes said the design work will be done in-house by faculty and students. The plans also have to be in line with DCTC's overall strategic goals and plans.

As part of that process, DCTC and the University of Minnesota have opened discussion about collaborating on plans for the project that would include community gardens, tree nurseries, wetland restoration and more on the UMore Park property and the DCTC campus.

Additionally, Hayes said he has spoken with representatives from Dakota County about incorporating the plans as part of the North Creek Greenway.

As they begin the process of creating a master plan, Hayes said he's excited to see what comes out of the effort.

While establishing the various garden will take time, Hayes said he and others at DCTC feel like it could be a valuable asset not only on the campus but to the area at large.

"We really feel it could make a major impact," said Hayes.

To learn more about the Beauty of Green Initiative visit dctc.edu.

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Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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