Chatham Mortar Board brings rebirth of Rachel Carson Garden

After a long time coming, revitalization to the low-lying area of land between the Buhl science building and Laughlin Music Hall is coming once again. The Rachel Carson Garden project, spearheaded by Chatham University’s Mortar Board, comes back after hiatus.

The original founders of the Rachel Carson Garden predate those involved now, but their legacy currently lives on with the project’s revitalization.

Dr. Roxanne Fisher, founder of the Rachel Carson Garden, began the project when Chatham University was still Chatham College, with the goal of salvaging green space on Chatham’s Shadyside campus. Along with colleagues Dr. Renee Falconer and Dr. Mary Kostalos, the garden began to take fruition through their combined efforts.

Following Dr. Fisher’s passing in 2008, the garden fell to neglect. In reaction, the Class of 2011’s Senior Gift provided funds to restore the Rachel Carson Garden after raising approximately $5,700.

Though labor is at no cost, the funds have gone to renting equipment, buying plant content, and getting the project started.

Directly following, the new direction of the garden was conceptualized through collaboration Landscape Architecture program in the fall of 2011.  A master concept guided the site’s design as student projects determined specialized areas of the garden. Based off of ecology principles, subcategories of the garden include an edible garden, pollinator garden, and a scent garden.

A large section of the garden is established, but there are still areas that need planting.

It was last spring when the Mortar Board was approached with the idea of supporting the Rachel Carson Garden project as a campus service project.

The Mortar Board is a National College Honor Society dedicated to the principles of scholarship, leadership, and service. Those with a senior status with a QPA the top seven percent of their class department are eligible to join.

“I really like how we are trying to preserve the environment and help the campus stay green. It is a way to sustain what exists here and prevent buildings from occupying the space” said Darayu Wilson, Mortar Board Treasurer.

The original founders of the Rachel Carson Garden predate those involved now, but their legacy currently lives on with the project’s revitalization.

The Rachel Carson Garden is the biggest project the Mortar Board has taken on so far, as the project spans over two years. The project timeline is estimated at two years, considering how growing and planting seasons impact garden installation.

“For Chatham to keep an environmental focus for those not involved in environmental majors, the garden gives us a taste of Rachel Carson by engraining this community message” said Mortar Board member Ashley Fersh.

Thus far, the garden has since been cultivated with herbs, flowers, mini rose bushes, ornamental grasses, and other assorted plants. All current and future plants of the garden are native to Pennsylvania.

“The garden will create beauty on campus while providing a place to study for educational opportunities” said Fersh.

Mortar Board applications for the Class of 2015’s upcoming seniors are now being accepted, and can be found on MyChatham.