FARMINGTON — San Juan College administrators and consultants held a Tuesday open house to hear community input on plans to reduce water use on campus landscaping.

They say reducing water is necessary to cut costs and to respond to persistent drought conditions.

Steve Biernacki, a senior director of the San Juan College physical plant, said the goal of the meeting was to solicit opinions from the community on proposed campus landscaping changes in the college's master plan.

Representatives from an Albuquerque-based landscape firm and Architectural Research Consultants, Inc. provided several poster-size graphics representing possible changes to landscaping and campus infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks, for the public to view.

At right, Les Lundquist, San Juan College’s groundskeeper, looks at maps during a campus landscaping meeting at San Juan College in Farmington.
At right, Les Lundquist, San Juan College's groundskeeper, looks at maps during a campus landscaping meeting at San Juan College in Farmington. Pictured in the background are Steve Biernacki, San Juan College's physical plant senior director, center, and John Petronis, president of Architectural Research Consultants Inc. (Jon Austria/ The Daily Times)

The graphics covered topics like landscape water use, parking and road changes, proposed expansions of trails and possible development of a college community garden near the Outdoor Learning Center on campus.

Brian Verardo, a landscape architect, said the college plans to use xeriscaping, which uses drought-tolerant plants to minimize water use, more prominently. The plans are meant to address operation costs and water use.

"With the drought we've all been experiencing in the Southwest in the last couple of years, there has been a desire for xeriscaping," Verardo said.

Verado said the comments will help shape the final version of the five-year campus plan before it's presented to the college board for approval later this year.

College grounds supervisor Alice Barnard said xeriscaping focuses on using water-appropriate plants and vegetation to reduce the need for water.

"We want useful grass that is appropriate in its place," Barnard said. "You want it close to the buildings where people can sit on it, lay on it. A lot of people use it for studying."

Barnard worked to reduce the amount of grass on campus from about 10 acres 16 years ago to about seven acres currently.

One graphic on display focused on proposed "xeric conversion areas" where high-water-use grass areas could be converted to low- or medium-water-use landscaping.

Student Sid Martin said he liked that the college campus has lots of trees and plants but understands that it takes a lot of water.

"I really enjoy the colors they have in the trees. The whites, the pinks and the reds," Martin said.

Martin, who said he worked in landscaping for about six years, said that if the college adopts xeriscaping, he would like to see more sculptures.

Barnard said efforts to bring native plants onto campus have created a more welcoming atmosphere on the grounds.

"We've gotten compliments for what we have on campus and how soothing it is," Barnard said. "I've tried to provide landscaping that is soothing. This is a stressful place for some people."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.