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Tali Gasko and Rob Kuntz work on the Leipsic planting design project.

Town hall planting

Photo courtesy of Ed Lewandowski

UD students, professors spruce up Leipsic Town Hall

Continuing on ideas that began in her Ecological Planting Design class, University of Delaware faculty member Jules Bruck, along with Ed Lewandowski and four UD students, headed to Leipsic on a Saturday in June to plant 900 native and beneficial plants around the town hall.

The project marked the first phase of the implementation of ideas gathered by the class and organized by Bruck, associate professor and director of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Austin Virdin, a UD alumnus who graduated in 2017, and Olivia Kirkpatrick, a junior majoring in landscape horticulture and design.

The class presented three of their ideas to the town and incorporated community feedback along the way.

"This is the phase one implementation of the overall planting,” Bruck said, explaining that the team “basically completed the foundation planting for the front of the building.”

The plants that were installed were predominantly native but there were some non-invasive ornamentals that are low maintenance to provide ground cover.

“The majority of the landscape is ground cover,” Bruck said, noting that when the sod is stripped and the dirt exposed, the planting of small shrubs can open the site to massive weed infestation. “The quicker you can establish a solid ground cover, the better it will be in terms of maintenance. That’s probably one of our best low-maintenance strategies.”

The Leipsic landscaping project grew out of the Working Waterfronts Initiative in the community for which Lewandowski, acting Marine Advisory Service director for Delaware Sea Grant and coordinator for the University’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative (SCCI), which is housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), was the principal investigator.

SCCI launched the Working Waterfronts Initiative in 2012 to develop sustainability strategies for preserving and maintaining the state’s traditional maritime communities. When members of Leipsic’s museum committee approached Lewandowski about assisting with development of their maritime and agricultural museum, which will reside in the same facility as the town hall, he connected them with Bruck. He also provided project funding from SCCI to pay for the development of the landscaping plans as well as the plants and necessary supplies.

The town is going to take ownership of the next phases, which include building a community plaza, fixing the flagpole and the town sign and installing benches.

Bruck said that if there was going to be a third phase of the project, it would be to paint a mural on the back of the building – one of the student recommendations that came from her class – and then to install several trees in the back lot.

The three Summer Service Learning Scholars who helped on the project included Rob Kuntz, Tali Gasko and Haley Stanko. Leipsic’s Deputy Mayor, Martha Wilkinson, and council member Debbie McKeever, also assisted with the landscaping installation.

Elaine Elston, the MOT Charter High School principal, also helped with the project, along with one of her high school students. Elston was also joined by her husband, her son and daughter and one other community member.

As far as what the actual planting looked like compared to the plan that the class had drawn up on paper, Bruck said that she has been doing this for a long time and is used to how the paper ideas come to life in the real world.

“The translation of a plan from paper is easy for experienced landscape professionals,” she said. “It’s a skill set that develops over a long time so it takes a while for students to start to understand how circles on a piece of paper actually translate to a physical landscape including what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to feel. But they will get there in time. It’s a matter of designing a plan, installing it, and seeing how it looks in real space. Once you do that over and over you develop an ability to go back and forth between the two.”

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