URI graduate student’s plans to protect water

KINGSTON, R.I. — April 1, 1999 — What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, Marilyn Shellman, part-time school bus driver, operator of a perennial nursery in North Kingstown, and full-time mother, was nervous about returning to college. After all, it had been 20 years since she had been in a classroom. She wondered if she could handle the work. Today, the URI graduate student in community planning who earned a landscape architecture degree from URI last May, is giving public presentations about how vitally important the landscaping around streams, ponds and coastal areas is to water quality. This winter, she designed URI’s exhibit, “Landscaping at the Water’s Edge,” for the Rhode Island Flower and Garden Show. The exhibit, sponsored by URI’s Cooperative Extension, Sustainable Landscapes Program and the Rhode Island Home*A*Syst Program, won the American Horticultural Society’s first-place award for demonstrating that bond between horticulture and the environment and inspiring the viewer to use skillful design and appropriate plants to beautify their home and community. As a Coastal Fellow at URI for the past year with Home*A*Syst, a voluntary residential pollution prevention program run by URI Cooperative Extension, Shellman has developed a program component focusing on landscaping for water quality protection. She collaborated with Natural Resource Science Professor Dr. Art Gold who is also water quality coordinator for Cooperative Extension; Angelo Simeoni Jr., associate professor in landscape architecture; and Alyson McCann, coordinator of Home*A*Syst to produce a consumer booklet Landscape Improvements for Water Quality. It is a teaching tool for homeowners who live near a body of water, be it river, stream, pond, lake, or wetland. The publication is now available to the public. (Call McCann at 874-5398 for more information.) Shellman also created a slide show about good management practices around water. Both the booklet and slide show graphically show landscape problems and solutions. For example, runoff from impermeable surfaces—roofs, sidewalks, and driveways—can be so substantial that it can create gullies in the lawn and carry sediment, pesticides, and fertilizers off the site to the wetlands. One recommended solution is to plant vegetative buffers around the residence, driveway, and sidewalk to absorb stormwater runoff. Water and land are a natural fit for Shellman. She was raised in a rural area and grew up around ponds and streams. Water runs through the land where Shellman lives with her husband, a quahogger and two teen-agers in North Kingstown. An avid gardener, the URI student has run Shellman’s Country Gardens in North Kingstown, for the past 15 years. Her decision to return to school to “earn some credentials and some money” was based, in part, on the fact that she was frequently asked gardening advice. Her decision to study community planning was easy. “Planning is about how to use land responsibly. It’s a natural flow from landscape architecture,” she says. “Marilyn is really doing a terrific job,” says Home*A*Syst Coordinator McCann. “She has taken her talents and developed a valuable water protection component to the program. “She has grown in self-confidence. She delivers her public presentations with both ease and knowledge.” Not bad for a 47-year-old woman who once a upon a time wondered if she could do college work. For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116