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Stone waterfall at UTSC created with recycled materials

ALCOVE WATERFALL: An old display case, a recycled swimming pool pump, and stone salvaged from around campus were all repurposed by UTSC grounds crew to create this appealing waterfall outside of the Arts & Administration building. (Photo by Eleni Kanavas.)

by Eleni Kanavas

They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and this is certainly true for an innovative outdoor site at U of T Scarborough.

A streaming waterfall that stands outside the south entrance of the Arts and Administration (A & A) building was made completely from recycled and reused materials found on campus by the grounds crew. Named the Alcove Waterfall after its outdoor location, it was designed by Rob Sarson, supervisor of grounds, and the UTSC grounds crew. The construction of the waterfall took about two weeks to complete and was installed last year in the fall.

“I’ve always wanted to do a waterfall on campus but it was a matter of finding the right location and creating a design that would work,” said Sarson, who had been searching for ideas and recycled materials around campus. The waterfall operates on an energy-saving timer system that turns the pump on and off automatically.

The large, solid piece of stone used as the backdrop and foundation of the waterfall came from materials salvaged from the landscaping near the Miller Lash House. Sarson and his staff built a concrete form and buried it three feet into the ground to position and reinforce the large stone upright in the concrete and prevent it from falling. The flagstone walkway came from a deteriorating stone walk behind an old house in the Highland Creek Valley.

Using an old recycled swimming pool pump, the waterfall uses no more than 20 gallons of water, which re-circulates through two plexiglass holding tanks, one buried in the ground and another attached on the back of the stone. These tanks were created from the large plexiglass cover of an old display case that was cut in half to make two small tanks.

In order to create the effect of a wide sheet of water streaming through the stone, the grounds crew inserted a piece of corrugated plastic into a thin slit in the top part of the stone. During the winter months, the cascade is shut off by draining the water from the holding tanks and removing the pump. It starts up again in early May when the crew prepares the campus irrigation systems for the summer months.

“I have to thank my grounds crew for making this project happen,” Sarson said. “They’re talented and skilled, and they had a fun time creating and designing the area. The nicest part of the waterfall project is that we used existing materials and it cost almost nothing.”

Although the waterfall’s building costs were minimal, some money was spent beautifying the surrounding area. Sarson says an estimated $500 was spent on plants and on the accompanying smooth river stones, purchased from Highland Creek Patio and Fireplace. Some plant species purchased from Humber Nurseries were introduced into the surrounding area and include: Feather Reed Grass, Sedge ‘Silver Scepture’, Elijah Blue Fescue, Japanese Blood Grass and a dwarf Japanese Maple.

Asked whether or not the campus will see any more environmentally friendly waterfalls built, Sarson says it depends on the number of reusable items he finds on campus grounds. “I would like to create more water features on campus,” he said, “especially on the H-Wing patio near the concrete structure, because water makes most areas more visually pleasing.”

In the meantime, Sarson hopes to continue working to beautify the Alcove Waterfall area. He plans to seek funds to purchase a combination wrought-iron bench and arbor to fill the bare adjacent wall behind the cascade in order to enable more students, faculty and staff to enjoy this new outdoor space on campus.

Members of the campus community say they find the site aesthetically pleasing. “The little waterfall area by the back doors of the A & A building is a perfect and quaint spot to relax outside when the weather is nice,” says Kyomi Duncan, student recruitment officer in Admissions and Student Recruitment. “It’s lovely to sit there, even if it’s just for a five-minute break.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough