USU–Moab sustainability intern Claire Core credited the four hands-on community workshops, Aarchway Inn staff, and approximately 50 volunteers for making the garden a reality.
“I’m totally elated to have this wrapped up and to be able to celebrate it with everybody who has been involved,” Core said.
The BIG group has launched several gardens throughout the community — including at the Moab Charter School, Canyonlands Field Institute, and the USU-Moab campus — that integrate water-wise conservation, pollinator health and sustainable food systems into the design.
“A lot of times people don’t know. They think it’s either got be turf grass or gravel - those are your two options,” said Jeff Adams, an ecological designer who helped build the garden. “It’s nice to be able to have these high profile things that show all these different functions that look good and say ‘you can do it too.’”
The gardens incorporate permaculture principles, which according to the USU Extension Sustainability website, involve a type of design that looks at the location — and the wider ecological and man-made systems interacting with the location — as connected. Permaculture designs focus on “perennial agricultural ecosystems that emphasize renewability, sustainability, and self-sufficiency,” according to the website.
According to Core, Moab’s recent rains successfully highlighted the Aarchway Inn garden’s functional design to slow, spread, and sink water throughout the space, even during a downpour.
“It worked as it was designed, having a swirling eddy in this pool so that water will slow, spread and sink. [The water] hung out there and soaked deep into the soil,” Core said. “Some wood chips were submerged, but the water was slow and calm enough that all of the wood chips just sat right back down where they came from. They’re [now] acting like a sponge, holding onto that water and time-releasing it to the soil and the plants. I’m so glad to have gotten that [downpour] experiment.”
In addition to its water-wise design, the the Aarchway Inn garden encourages adults and kids to walk and play throughout the space, members of the BIG group said.
“Being right next to the playground, that’s what makes it so cool,” said Aarchway Inn Assistant General Manager Devin Soli. “The kids will love it because they are always out here chasing lizards and trying to follow butterflies. It’s a really cool area with a lot of whimsy.”
Roslynn Brain, assistant professor at USU–Moab, said she hopes that as visitors walk in the garden they become interested in its permaculture functions and the different species of native and climate appropriate plants.
“Our hope is that as people walk through the garden, it’s so beautiful and so simple, that they will be inspired to do a similar thing on their landscape,” Brain said. “They might say, ‘why are we growing a mono planted yard when we could have a diverse pollinator-attracting, food-producing landscape?’”
Aarchway Inn owner Mike Bynum said that since he acquired the property in 2006 the landscape has completely transformed from a tamarisk jungle to an open space that now incorporates the garden.
“This garden is a nice icing on the cake for a lot of work to make it nice for our guests, friends and people here in Moab,” Bynum said. “Hopefully, this will perhaps inspire a few other business to get involved.”
Bynum encouraged Moab residents to walk the grounds, enjoy, and learn about the new garden space.
For more information about BIG and permaculture design in the Moab community, visit beeinspired.usu.edu.