More than ever, the time is ripe – ripe for the campus community of Cal Poly to “promote the environmental stewardship, protection, enhancement and sustainability” of our natural resources of Poly Canyon and Brizzolara Creek, as suggested in Cal Poly’s Master Plan 2003.
The timing is ripe for several reasons:
First, Cal Poly has a great opportunity with Poly Canyon Village (PCV) coming into fruition fall 2008. PCV is a student housing project with 2,700 apartment spaces for students, and is situated on the banks of Brizzolara Creek north of Poly Canyon. Will the new village increase human interaction with Brizzolara Creek? The answer is inherently yes. Can the influx of students around Brizzolara Creek have a negative impact on the biophysical health of the creek? The answer is also inherently yes. Consequently, these students will walk over Brizzolara Creek every trip to campus and back, and although we may recognize there will be an increase in human interaction with the creek, we fail to recognize “how will the students interact with the creek?” Determining how Cal Poly wants to promote student interaction with Brizzolara Creek is the BIG question.
So how do we want students to interact with the creek? The creek’s accessibility and proximity poses a great opportunity in providing an aesthetically valuable environment for students and campus community members to enjoy intrinsically, recreationally, as a wildlife habitat and as a “living laboratory” learning facility. On the flip side, 2,700 students interacting with the creek poses a potential threat by raising exposure to unprecedented numbers. Will they interact with the creek in a fashion that could detract from the aesthetic value or the wildlife habitat? The failure to instate a program to guide the desired outcome decided by Cal Poly could lead to the degradation of one of the valuable “living laboratory” resources Cal Poly prides itself on.
Secondly, it would behoove us to as a polytechnic university to provide the student community not only a living experience, but an educational experience away from the classroom. We can provide a living environment that is healthy and beautiful, a place to study and walk trails, a place where they are provided opportunities to understand their local environment in a way that empowers them to take personal responsibility. We can also provide a responsibility for something greater than themselves, an ecosystem they never knew existed, an ecosystem they never understood how they and their peers affect, an ecosystem that relies heavily on the protection of us, and society. To provide these opportunities would allow growth in understanding that they are a small but integral part to the health of the local environment.
Lastly, a growing interest in the environment has prompted a flood of student groups, faculty and Cal Poly administrators to become more environmentally conscientious in several ways. To help boost these efforts, a program should be drafted to promote the master plan guidelines in order to fulfill the need for Cal Poly to lead the charge in preparing students to make informed decisions regarding our environment, how we interact with it, and how we can preserve it. Environmental philosopher Andrew Light suggests our relationship to nature is shaped locally. As our generation inherits a world of pollution damage, resource depletion and an ever-growing population, the way we face these issues is dependent on how well-educated we are. How well do we know our local environment? Poly Canyon Village provides a great chance to educate students who will be living in a natural resource rich area. Will we take advantage of this educational outreach opportunity?
In an effort to bolster positive interaction between the campus community and Brizzolara Creek, Cal Poly’s first annual Creek Day will be held May 15. Cal Poly Creek Day provides a forum for public participation in environmental restoration and rehabilitation projects.
Kevin Waldron is city and regional planning senior and a guest columnist for the Green Spot.