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Sparkling developments at Rock Creek brought to you by college’s Bond Program
Story by Janis Nichols and Katherine Miller.
From building renovations and courtyard upgrades to stunning new byways for emergency vehicles, the westside Portland campus is really coming into its own. These prominent improvements were funded by the 2008 voter-approved bond measure, which has built up facilities around the PCC district. Two of these projects at Rock Creek have really stood out and were recently completed. Both have significantly improved the safety and vitality of the rural campus.
Rock Creek’s courtyard gets needed facelift
It’s taken almost a year to get the pieces in place, but now with new soil, concrete path, irrigation system and reinstalled art work, the Building 7 courtyard is sparkling. Rock Creek Campus Landscape Technology Program students made quick work of installing 263 plants on the first day of Arbor Week in Oregon. The courtyard project was funded by both the Rock Creek Campus and the bond. The college saved big by having students design and installing the plants as part of their studies.
Instructor Elizabeth Brewster’s “Plant Establishment and Maintenance” class had the joyful task of installing a student-designed plan in the courtyard. The design was developed in a “Landscape Design” class taught by Marilyn Alexander during winter 2015.
“The landscape design class gave us the opportunity to raise our game and prepare something worthy of campus installation,” said Peach, who was not only part of the original design team, but was on hand for the installation. “All four of the designs that were created in the landscape design class were good and they all had to address the unique challenges of the Building 7 courtyard.”
The courtyard used to be part of a parking lot, and the soil was a mix of compacted clay and gravel with poor structure and drainage. The Rock Creek grounds crew brought in a tractor with an auger and drilled through the hardpan layer to improve drainage. Additionally, a foot of hard clay was removed from the site and crews trucked in more than 60 cubic yards of new soil in advance of the installation.
Even with healthy soil in place, the courtyard offered a demanding environment.
“For the ‘Plant Establishment and Maintenance’ students, this was an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a real world installation that required critical thinking to understand how to lay out plants by following a plan to scale, as well as an understanding of proper planting technique and an opportunity to learn by doing rather than in the classroom,” Brewster said. “And the students had a blast.”
Deep shade and severe sunlight, a walking path, six benches, three sculptures and an exterior stairwell all added to the complexity of the design. It had to work at the ground level and it had to be attractive from the second floor windows in Building 7. The plan needed to showcase all-season native plants that were interesting and fragrant, as well as be beautiful, functional, ADA compliant and easy to maintain.
In early April, Brewster’s 23 students made quick work of the installation that involved 16 trees of various sizes, 41 shrubs and 206 perennials including grasses and ground covers. The benches have been ordered and 24 yards of bark mulch will be delivered soon to complete the design.
“There is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction that comes from taking a blank canvas and bringing your vision to life, and to see that for the first time as a student is a big deal,” Brewster added.
Egress road links up largest geographical campus
In years past, the Rock Creek Campus had only one road in and out, which posed safety concerns. But a new egress road linking the west side of the campus with Northwest 185th Avenue has alleviated those concerns.
The road was built by Northwest Infrastructure, a minority-owned construction firm. The road is paved, 880 feet long, and has locked gates at both ends, which will be opened by the college’s Public Safety officers for use by emergency vehicles, if required. The adjoining pathway for pedestrians and cyclists is open at all times.
The bond work also added energy-efficient LED lamp posts, extensive landscaping and a large bioswale, which helps protects the wetlands area to the north from stormwater runoff. Before the egress road was constructed the area was mostly used as a pasture for the cattle that belongs to the Veterinary Technician Program. Now, an electrified fence on either side of the road ensures that the bovine stay safely in their pastures.
Other road-related projects are in Rock Creek’s future. When the campus opened in 1976, it was in a quiet, rural setting 12 miles from downtown Portland. Today, growth driven by the nearby high-tech corridor has turned the area into a bustling and busy community. That growth is requiring improvements to the main arteries that serve the campus.
Washington County is currently working on widening surrounding streets, adding bike lanes, sidewalks, street lighting, storm drainage and safety enhancements. These improvements are being funded through the MSTIP Bonding Cost-sharing program with match funds from the Transportation Development Tax Program.
PCC staff is working closely with the county on these plans and construction is projected to start later this summer and be completed by September 2017.