Botanical Gardens need some TLC

By Jonathan Baez
Pulse staff reporter 

Students relax in Palo Alto’s million dollar Botanical Gardens. Photo by Jonathan Baez.

The Palo Alto College Botanical Gardens give students the opportunity to interact with nature and the wildlife that make their home in the garden.

“It’s a great place to sit down, relax and study,” said Gabby Busillos, a freshman Biology major.

PAC dedicated seven acres to the gardens and a geology exhibit that stretch from the Aquatic Center/Gymnasium to the Student Center. The gardens include a South Texas Native Trail, an area that showcases plants, shrubs and trees that are indigenous to Texas; The Texas Dry Gardens, where different types of rocks and plants that thrive in low humidity areas are displayed; and a Butterfly Garden, where an insectary can be found.

The gardens were partially funded by a $4-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CAARE) to increase the student success rates and create new opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“As far as I know, no [we do not use the Botanical Gardens for STEM classes], but right now there is more of a change with more STEM students, they are looking more at Experimental Biology, like going out into the field, but it just depends on your professor,” said Ismael Torres, a Science Lab Tech at Palo Alto College. “But for sure we utilize the ponds on campus. There is almost a whole semester dedicated to the ponds on campus.”

 Whether the gardens are utilized by STEM students or not, one of the main concerns that was expressed by students, staff and faculty was the overall maintenance of the gardens.

“It is not satisfactory,” said Eustacio Morales, the grounds foreman at Palo Alto College when asked about the Botanical Gardens’ upkeep.

The maintenance for the gardens are not taken care of by the groundskeepers here at PAC. Instead, the school uses contractors to help maintain and keep up with the campus’ grounds. The company that they contract with is called GCA, a national company that provides facility services. GCA has six workers who collectively maintain most of the grounds at PAC, including all of the gardens.

“We usually do maintenance of the Botanical Gardens once every two weeks,” said Frank Martinez, the foreman for GCA. “But as of right now, our main focus is making sure that the campus is ready for PACfest.”

Other students outside of STEM majors who use the gardens as a place to relax and hang out also have voiced concerns with the gardens’ general upkeep.

Chance Mormon, a freshman Fine Arts major, said “It doesn’t look well maintained.”

As you enter the South Texas Native Trail, what should be shrubs and plants of color is instead dried up plants of minimal color and barely visible information panels covered with bird feces.

The gardens displayed on the Palo Alto website and what is actually displayed on both South Texas Native Trail and the Texas Dry Gardens are at odds.