S.C. Botanical Gardens on road to recovery

By D. C. Moody

July 25, 2014

CLEMSON — For 28 days during the summer of 2013, the Clemson area was saturated with rain and on July 13, eight inches of rain in 24 hours left the S.C. Botanical Gardens devastated. A year later, recovery is well on the way.

Clemson students, along with volunteers from the community and staff of the university, combined their efforts over a year’s time to make the home to some 8,000 species of plants and foliage accessible once again as well as begin the recovery of many lost species, some likely lost to the garden forever.

“One year and one week ago a torrential storm devastated the Clemson area following 28 days of rain,” William Craig, a fifth year student at Clemson University, explained as the improvements were unveiled. “The ground was completely saturated and on July 13, 102 million gallons of water turned into a sheet flow after four hours and eight inches of rain fell on the area.”

The numbers might seem hard to believe but are accurate and the costs to repair the damage following the storm tallied over $225,000 and the efforts of many combined.

“This turned out to be an opportunity for our students when it came time to decide how to deal with the water flow issues,” manager John Bodiford said. “They worked with us and the community and got some real world experience outside of the classroom.”

Over a year’s time students from the architectural and landscape architecture departments worked together to address water runoff and design of footbridges and structures capable of handling another incident similar to last summer’s.

“As students we were charged with rebuilding the bridges and their structural makeup,” Craig said. “All of the bridges were structurally compromised and we saw this as an opportunity to be proactive in trying to prevent this type of damage in the future.”

The students were split into four groups: bridge system, signage system, creative art and watershed analysis. The result is a new look, structurally sound bridges, and new signage and art that reflects the topographical area and how to help prevent a watershed issue in the future.

“The biggest hurdle was not the topography of the land here, it was the landscape around the university,” Craig said. “The surrounding areas are different from the botanical garden because this is an all-natural area, meaning no pesticides or herbicides and runoff had to be considered as well.”

One particular area where the students have made an effort to increase awareness is what is known as Kite Hill where the Clemson water tower is located. The area is used for parking during football season and by students during warmer months, compacting the soil and increasing runoff. Signage is now in place to help alleviate some of those worries through education.

According to Bodiford, there was a great deal more at stake than the community was aware of following the 2013 flood.