On Tuesday evening, May 10, Dr. Heidi Von Dohlen, Principal of Owen Middle School, welcomed community representatives to the school to learn more about next steps in the ongoing “Natural Impact Initiative.” The goal of the initiative is to maximize the school’s natural resources through community partnerships, creating a school landscape that promotes environmental stewardship, citizen science, and exploratory learning.
The Asheville Design Center and volunteer Bill Bauman (retired architect and Swannanoa resident) have drawn up a Preliminary Master Plan for the next phase of the Initiative. The plans include trails, gardens, outdoor learning centers, orchards, a weather station, and wildlife viewing areas. Those in attendance at the May 10 gathering were given tours of the land, including the existing beaver dam, site of a proposed wildlife viewing platform. A picnic supper was available in the school courtyard, where the design staff held an informal question-and-answer session, and presented maps and drawings of the proposal. They also handed out master plan surveys to get input and reactions from those present.
The Natural Impact Initiative is being undertaken in three phases. The first phase, which was completed last year, included rehabilitation of a pond on the school’s property, construction of raised beds with native pollinator plants, planting milkweed to attract migrating Monarch butterflies, and planting chestnut saplings in partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation. Much of the work was done by Owen Middle School students, working alongside volunteers from a variety of community partners.
To learn more about the Natural Impact Initiative, and to find out how you can support the project (donations from businesses and individuals will help supplement grants and other funding sources), visit http://www.buncombe.k12.nc.us/Page/50706.