• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation

Western Technical College will be developing an old construction material staging yard into an educational green space, and incorporating climate adaptation approaches in order to spread climate awareness to the surrounding community.

This green space will provide Western Landscape Horticulture students a place to practice their horticultural skills, and all other students and staff a place to take a break from their busy schedules and immerse themselves in nature. Western will develop this space to be at the foremost educational, innovative, and sustainable where the public can take these concepts and apply them to their own properties. The goal is to break ground on the development in the spring of 2019.

Project Area

10/24/2018 Google Maps https://www.google.com/maps/@43.8136711,-91.247643,68m/data=!3m1!1e3 1/1 Imagery ©2018 Google, Map data ©2018 Google 20 ft Gravel lot to the left of our Greenhouses and north of the Horizon Management Group is our gravel lot that will be turned into a green space
The area being developed by Western Technical College is located in La Crosse, Wisconsin, at an old construction material staging yard totaling approximately 0.25 Acres. Gravel lots located on campus, west of the Horticulture Education Building, will be turned into an outdoor green space. Outside of Western, the space may be utilized by surrounding organizations such as the County of La Crosse, UW-Extension, City of La Crosse, and Horizon Management Group.

Management Goals

Proposed Landscape Plan

The overarching goal is to provide Western students, staff, and the surrounding community with a demonstration garden that engages visitors with ideas of mitigating urban environmental issues, as well as develop a community green space in an area of downtown La Crosse that is otherwise dominated by gray infrastructure. This includes experimenting with predetermined plant species that are identified as more resilient to climate change in conjunction with the challenges of growing plants in an urban environment.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Temperatures in the Midwest are projected to increase by 5.6 to 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
The frequency and intensity of heat waves is expected to increase across the Midwest by the middle of the century.
The frequency and intensity of cold waves is expected to decrease across the Midwest by the middle of the century.
Climate conditions will increase fire risks in the Midwest by the end of the century.
Average annual precipitation is projected to increase slightly across the Midwest over the next century.
The frequency of intense precipitation will continue to increase across the Midwest under climate change.
A majority of climate models suggest that precipitation in the Midwest will increase in the winter, spring, and fall by the end of the century, but models generally project slight decreases in summer precipitation.
The annual frost-free season is expected to increase by roughly 30 days in the Midwest by the end of the century.
Climate change will amplify many existing stressors to forest ecosystems in the Midwest, such as invasive species, insect pests and pathogens, and disturbance regimes.
Boreal and northern tree species in the Midwest are generally expected to decline in suitable habitat under climate change, while temperate tree species, grasslands, savannas, and woodlands may expand by the end of the century.
Low-diversity systems are at greater risk from climate change.
The urban heat island effect can exacerbate the effects of increasing temperatures.
Impervious cover can exacerbate the effects of increased heavy precipitation events in urban areas.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


Western will have to get creative on how to educate visitors in a meaningful way on urban environmental issues and how climate change exacerbates these issues on a .25 acre site.
How drought prone will this site really be based on the Heat and Cold hardiness projections?
Future water restrictions for the purpose of green healthy landscapes.


Establishing a partnership with the City of La Crosse's Planner has already opened the lines of communication and helped us define where our efforts will be the most effective.
The project area can educate the project area visitors effectively. The La Crosse City Planner is also very motivated in having our students create innovative solutions that could be applied on a regional basis. He challenged our students to think beyond
We can implement a variety of tactics to address zone changes and make our site more drought resistant: 1) Rain Garden with Iowa plant species and 2) Herbaceous plant gravel beds.
Developing new interest in this type of landscaping via educational materials.
Looking to south western midwest plant communities for possible plants for our project area.
Planting opportunities with zone 5 plants, and potentially 6-8, as the greenspace and climate changes progress through time.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Test the top soil that will be moved to the site and amend it with bio-solids and bio-chars before any plantings occur.
Reach out to UW- Stevens Point soil instructor that is currently conducting research on these soil amendments.
Place trees in landscape beds vs turf areas.
Use permeable pavers in planned walkways.
Remove and replace struggling species with a more appropriate plant selection in light of current environmental conditions
Install a gravel garden for native prairie species.
Locate any red listed plants that will be suitable for our project area and plant them.
Promote native plants that are resilient to the project area now and in the future.
Take a mix of regionally appropriate plants and concentrate them on the project site.
Select species that are very adaptable to project area water management.
Future Conditions
Select native plants that are projected to do well in climate change vs non-natives / cultivars.
Experiment with new cultivars that are projected to do better in extreme weather.
Examine current planting lists and modify them based on what native plants should do well in future extreme weather.


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
How many visitors engage with the site once developed and how many take a paper based survey.
Using a GIS based program to measure the percentage of greenspace in a 4 block radius.
Constantly assessing how the plantings are established every day during the first growing season. Growing season 2 and 3, continue to monitor to see if plantings are successful.



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