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Pathway Project winds through university

Pathway Project winds through university

CSU Stanislaus officials and guests broke ground on the new California Pathways Project at the university.

POSTED October 23, 2009 9:49 p.m.
A vision more than 30 years in the making took the first steps toward becoming a reality on Thursday. Ground was broken for a new arboretum at California State University, Stanislaus, which was dreamed up by CSU Stanislaus Botanist Wayne Pierce three decades ago.
A crowd of donors and supporters gathered at the Naraghi Hall of Science to celebrate the groundbreaking, but regretfully Wayne Pierce was not counted among them. The respected professor, who passed away in August 2008, did not live to see his dream come to fruition.
“It’s a mixture of excitement and sadness that we didn’t do it a long time ago,” said Donna Pierce, wife of the late Wayne Pierce. “Teaching was his life, and he envisioned this great outdoor classroom and community park for all Turlock.”
The California Pathway Project, as the arboretum is known, will feature a long, winding path that takes visitors on a tour of California’s myriad natural ecosystems. Water features, which make use of recycled water, will be interspersed with native trees and shrubs from the Valley, Foothill, and Alpine regions of the state.
Wayne Pierce drafted the original plan in the 1970s, outlining the sorts of California Buckeye, California juniper, and ponderosa pines that will one day grow in the arboretum. CSU Stanislaus botanists of today are working to develop a more detailed plan, based on Wayne Pierce’s diagrams, to cover the massive site that stretches from Geer Road to Andre Lane along West Monte Vista Avenue. Upon completion the arboretum will stretch to 1,100 feet in length and cover nearly four acres, with “a lot of great plants,” according to CSU Stanislaus Botanist Stuart Wooley.
“This is going to be, I think, I hope, the best side and the best part of campus when it’s done,” Wooley said.
Wooley expects the arboretum to be a boon to the university’s botany and entomology programs, offering an outdoor lab chock full of learning opportunities. He envisions students going out into the field to collect specimens for the California Pathway Project, giving classrooms of the future the opportunity to observe textbook material such as population variation firsthand by observing subtle genetic differences in tree leaves. Even entomology students will have a great outdoor classroom, as various species of insects are expected to make their homes in the differing environments.
The opportunities for learning will be limited only by the professors’ imagination, Wooley said.
The California Pathway Project groundbreaking on Thursday signified the start of the second phase of development, which will install infrastructure such as underground water lines and electrical utilities. More than 300 Valley Oak seedlings — now mature — were planted on the site as a placeholder for the arboretum in 1989, but this week’s efforts mark the start of the full development of the site.
Interpretive displays, geological and cultural exhibits, and artwork are all forecasted for the arboretum upon completion. There are currently no final estimates of the costs to build the California Pathways Project, though completing the infrastructure is expected to cost $100,000, of which $75,000 has already been raised. The entire arboretum will be financed by donations.
It was Donna Pierce’s $40,000 contribution to the effort, in her husband’s memory, that enabled the university to break ground on Thursday. She also contributed a videotape to the groundbreaking ceremony, entitled “My Dream Arboretum by Dr. Wayne Pierce,” that she stumbled upon just weeks before the event. She didn’t even know the video existed, she said, until placing the unmarked tape into her VCR and hearing her husband’s narration begin.
“It’s creating something in perpetuity to him, in his memory forever,” Susana Gajic-Bruyea, CSU Stanislaus Vice President for University Advancement. “We’re going to continue to raise money for it so we can see it through to completion.”
University staff stated they would like to unveil the finished park by September of 2010, just in time for the university’s 50th anniversary, but that completion date depends heavily upon fundraising.
To donate to the California Pathway Project, call 667-3131.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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