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Over the river, and behind towers…

The sun brightens the yellow cords that hold up a well-placed wooden swing deeply hidden behind Towers here on campus. On its left is a small house, and to its right is a valley of power cords, parallel to a neighborhood of houses that Tulsa has hosted for years. Directly behind this calm spot lay mounds of dirt and asphalt mixed in with loads of trash completely covered in grass.

ORU biology senior with a focus on environmental science, Lindsay Jones, noted this area and decided to make it part of her senior project with the help of biology professor John Korstad.

“I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and conservation. Dr. Korstad wanted us to pair up and do environmental projects at school so my friend Hannah Pritchett and I teamed up and decided to work on a monarch butterfly garden or ‘waystation,’” said Jones. “The monarch population has been steadily declining for years, so this seemed like a project that could make a difference and it was something we are both really passionate about.”

Jones’ project uses only resources grown in ORU’s greenhouse, and the sanctuary has the potential to be placed behind the dirt-covered site.

The “Rocky” Roberts Maintenance offices are located behind the towers dorms, along with a painting facility, woodshop, mechanic shop and storage facility full of tile and carpet pieces for every  on-campus  building.

ORU is home to many projects, and this large field located beside the well-attended greenhouse is home to the left over supplies from those projects. George Perkins, the director of groundswork here on campus has been working on this issue for years.

“All of that dirt is going to be cleaned up as a part of this track project. Years ago they redid Fred Creek, which originally ran into Lake Evelyn, and went down into the creek beside the AC and the baseball stadium,” said Perkins, as he pointed to enlarged photos of the ORU campus from various years.

“After building the stadium they dragged the creek. They had a big flood as a result of the creek channel being too small, that went into the LRC and the GC. The City of Tulsa and the Corps of Engineers approved the money for Fred Creek to be dragged. That happened officially seven years ago.”

Perkins, who came on as staff at the same time that the creek project was concluding, assumed that positive outcomes could come from the storing of the excavated dirt.

“When that project was going on there was a lot of good dirt that we were digging out of all of this, and we decided to keep some of it in case we needed it for construction. We piled some dirt over here, and that turned out to be quite a bit. We have had a lot of complaints from the neighbors,” said Perkins.

The area closest to the neighborhood is also home to ORU’s very own greenhouse. The small home near the greenhouse was built at the creation of the university for the use of Oral Roberts himself. The property is now home to the Boyd family, and what was previously the site of Oral Roberts’ stable for horses is the “Rocky” Roberts center, where Perkins and his team work.

“I was like, you know what, we need to be growing all of our own plants that we use on campus rather than buy it, we have 198 flower beds on campus. We are able to grow everything we need out of that greenhouse,” said Perkins.

Part of the reconstruction plan includes the potential inclusion of a monarch butterfly sanctuary. Korstad and the environmental science majors are heavily involved in innovation to this space.

With sights set high for future advancements in environmental projects, the area remains home to gravel and trash.