Natural Areas | Sustainability | Kent State University

Natural Areas



Kent State University Kent Campus is located in the City of Kent in northeast Ohio in Portage County. Kent sits along the Cuyahoga River, which drains into the Lake Erie watershed. Portage County is in the Glaciated Allegheny Plateau, with evidence of rolling hills, bogs, and kettle lakes. The Kent Campus has a variety of habitats including forested areas, vernal pools, wetlands, pollinator habitat, a prairie, five formal gardens, and two campus gardens. University Facilities Management's Grounds crews maintain the 950 acres of the Kent Campus. We take immense pride in the beautification of our campus and realize the importance of a clean, healthy, and safe environment. 


Grasses and Plants

Kent State University’s prairie is located at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Prairie habitats are native to Ohio and are made up of unique plant communities, with grasses being the dominant species. In Ohio, the most common prairie grass is big bluestem, Andropogon gerardii. Each spring, the protected prairie surrounding the Student Recreation and Wellness Center is burned to put nutrients back into the soil and make way for new growth.  





Pollinator Habitat
During the summer, Kent State University’s pollinator garden is abuzz! Kent State University plants native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. The pollinator-friendly habitat is located along the path between Henderson Hall and Eastway’s Allyn Hall. Interpretive butterfly garden signs can be seen along with bat houses.


Campus Gardens
Kent State has two campus gardens. The Food Insecurity Garden is located behind Nixson Hall and maintained by the Nutrition and Dietetics faculty and students. Food from this garden is donated to Portage County children’s meals during times they are not receiving food provided through the National School Lunch Program, via Might Pack Program. Another garden is located behind DeWeese Health Center. The DeWeese Health Center’s Wellness Committee accomplished one of its wellness initiatives of creating a community garden focused on growing fresh produce, learning best-practice gardening techniques and managing stress through connection with nature.

DeWeese Health Center Community Garden


Trees and Forests



Tree Campus USA 
Kent State has received The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA designation since its inception in 2008. The Arbor Day Foundation started Tree Campus USA to recognize colleges and universities maintaining healthy community forests. Trees provide many benefits to campus from reflecting heat, providing shade, reducing noise pollution, capturing rainwater, cleaning the air, and enhancing health benefits.


Planting Partnership
University Facilities Management's Grounds shop is pleased to offer the opportunity for giving the gift of greenery.  This truly unique gift will be seen and enjoyed by thousands and will be remembered for generations to come. To commemorate the gift, an attractive certificate will be sent to the person or organization being honored.  In the case of a memorial gift, the certificate will be sent to the family.


Jennings Woods
A 74 acre temperate forest research site with riparian, upland, and bottomland habitats is located in Ravenna, Ohio.



Herrick Aquatic Education Research Facility
The HAERF is replicated experimental wetlands on campus. The HAERF was built on the KSU campus in 2001. It includes 10 independently flooded wetland basins, a stream pool habitat, and terrestrial habitat around the perimeter of the wetlands. The wetlands have been in use since 2002 to conduct population and community-level experiments under natural environmental conditions. 



Peatland Wetland
A peatland wetland includes a shallow pool, dry in the summer that usually floods after spring rains and snowmelt. Kent State University faculty, staff and Biology Club students collaborated on a management plan to preserve a peatland wetland on campus. Kent State University is using best management practices to achieve its goal of providing a healthy and functioning wetland ecosystem. This provides excellent amphibian breeding habitat due to the lack of predatory fish. 


Stormwater Wetlands
Stormwater Wetlands are located along the Portage County Hike and Bike trail Stormwater wetlands (a.k.a. constructed wetlands) are structural practices similar to wet ponds (see Wet Ponds fact sheet) that incorporate wetland plants into the design. As stormwater runoff flows through the wetland, pollutant removal is achieved through settling and biological uptake within the practice. Wetlands are among the most effective stormwater practices in terms of pollutant removal and they also offer aesthetic and habitat value. Although natural wetlands can sometimes be used to treat stormwater runoff that has been properly pretreated, stormwater wetlands are fundamentally different from natural wetland systems. Stormwater wetlands are designed specifically for the purpose of treating stormwater runoff, and typically have less biodiversity than natural wetlands in terms of both plant and animal life. Several design variations of the stormwater wetland exist, each design differing in the relative amounts of shallow and deep water, and dry storage above the wetland. (USEPA)

Annual Land and Water Symposium
Kent State’s annual Water and Land symposium will provide a forum for today’s understandings of natural systems and contemporary innovative design approaches for improving cities and society. Topics of conservation/recreation; living materials/fabrication; and sustainable/urbanism will create discussion on the limits of knowledge and the road to greater environmental responsibility. 


Regional Campus Features

Cleveland Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Plan 
The Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collective has been working with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the University of Buffalo, the Cleveland Office of Sustainability, and a host of local partners on an initiative to improve climate resilience in Cleveland neighborhoods. A portion of the multi-pronged project is testing the use of up to 200 empty lots for rain gardens, food gardens, community gathering places, native plants, and wetlands restoration. Other project components include helping residents reduce energy use, and working to strengthen neighborhood social connections.


Kent State Columbiana Arboretum and Gardens
Kent State Salem is the only campus in the Kent State system to offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in horticulture studies. The campus features a well-established arboretum with more than 200 different types of trees, shrubs and cultivars, as well as hosta gardens and a Discovery Garden that teaches students to grow vegetables, which are donated to the local food pantry. Before designing the butterfly garden, Kent State students conducted soil testing and site assessments. Students then used specially selected plants that attract butterflies.


Kent State Stark Campus Gardens 
A new course during the 2017 three-week summer intersession, Campus and Community Gardens, provided Kent State University at Stark students with the opportunity to design, plant, water, weed and harvest a campus garden. The course, taught by Chris Post, Ph.D., associate professor of geography, focused on giving students the tools, time, contacts and guidance necessary to set up a network of organizations and individuals who participated in the food’s organic production and distribution. The goal: to empower students to find better solutions to food concerns. The course may be over, but Post hired a student employee this summer to care for the garden. He says students in the class formed a club and also will help. Additionally, this fall, students in classes such as Sociology of Food will be able to help care for the garden. 


Kent State Stark Wired Wetlands 
Kent State Stark’s 17-acre Pond & Wetland Habitat/Wildlife Study Area has a high-tech sensor network, known as the “Wired Wetlands” project. The network allows students and faculty to collect data about the environment surrounding the pond and within the pond itself and upload data to websites in real-time. Students have access to the data – and for free – as they conduct their research.


Kent State Trumbull Draime Estate Gardens 
The Draime Estate Gardens distinguishes the Kent State program from any other in the state and makes it one of the most unique in the country. Started in 1990, the Draime garden reflects the vision and enthusiasm of owners D. Max, '59, and Cecile M. Draime, '58, who gained inspiration for the garden design, plant collection, and sculptures from numerous gardening studies and travels to other gardens worldwide. Pathways of brick, stone, gravel, turf, and mulch lead from one garden to another, providing contrast throughout the entire property as they set the tone for each garden's level of formality and simplicity.




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