The construction project that was underway this summer to renovate Q Parking Lot at SCSU is now finished and already showing results towards eliminating pollutant runoff in that area. With its completion, students parking concerns are diminishing as well.
The project was first discussed back in 2011, when staff and faculty at SCSU began to notice pollutant discharge and sediment entering the Mississippi River where Q Parking Lot is located.
After those initial observations, SCSU banded together with the city of St. Cloud, Stearns County Water and Soil Conservation District and many volunteers to make a change that would not only affect student parking, but would impact the environment as well.
Wayne Cymbaluk, the water and resource specialist at the Stearns County Water and Soil Conservation District, discussed how the project began.
“In 2011, we applied for a clean water fund grant to try to come up with some best management practices to treat that water prior to it discharging into the Mississippi River,” Cymbaluk siad. “In 2014, we were successful in getting a nearly $200,000 grant to complete that.”
Q Parking Lot consists of eight acres of hard surface that needed water to be funneled into one location in order to treat the pollutants. That is why the project featured building a bio-retention basin to treat the water.
“Right now there’s a two-celled system where all the water goes into a first cell that is considered a wet sedimentation basin that has standing water in it,” Cymbaluk said. “The storm water goes into there and the sediments settle out, and the clean water goes to the second part of the basin, which is the bio-retention basin.”
Within that basin, workers and volunteers planted between 8,000 to 9,000 native plant, including wildflowers and grasses. These plants serve to absorb water and nutrients.
“It was a joint effort. A student organization started about 1,000, then the rest were purchased under contract through Minnesota Native Landscapes,” Cymbaluk said.
Cymbaluk said that upon first glance, people won’t notice much of a difference in the Q Parking Lot area besides the green grass starting to grow. He explained that it takes about three to four years before the plants become established. For now, you will see a cover crop that is growing to stabilize the soil.
With the start of the school year underway, parking can become tight at times, especially in parking lots located near the university. There was talk that circulated regarding concerns over losing parking space in Q Parking Lot, due to the recent renovations.
SCSU Parking Coordinator Georgian Gross explained that there is no cause for alarm, as there are still plenty of parking permits available all over campus.
When the Q Parking Lot project was being discussed, the idea of losing parking space was not an issue, as it is still available for permit holders
Gross said, “When I first came to Public Safety 10 or 11 years ago, parking was a problem at that time. Our enrollment was up. Q-Lot held approximately 1,100 students that lived on campus, but since then, that number has consistently gone down.
Gross attributed the lower numbers to the creation of Coborn Apartments, students commuting and an overall decrease in students living in the residential halls.
“Last year we had a max of 300 parkers in Q-Lot, which was 800 empty spaces. So we decided to move permit holders to K-Lot. Which we have done, and we placed them close to the Husky Hub, so they can get on and off the bus,” Gross said.
Despite the majority of students being moved to K Parking Lot, Q Parking Lot is still an available parking option. Although right now, it is being treated more like an overflow lot, with only 55 students currently holding semester-long permits.
“We have always been able to accommodate people in K-Lot, and if we ever have too many, we will open up a larger portion of Q-Lot, where students can park overnight.” said Gross.
As for future plans for upcoming years, Gross plans for event parking for occasions that require over 100 people coming to SCSU in certain lots. She also hopes to one day offer free parking on campus in B Parking Lot, located near the College of Education, and C parking Lot near the parking ramp.
For now, beyond permits being shuffled, the difference in Q Parking Lot is evident in the now clean water that is running out from the basin, creating a fresh start for both students and the environment.