Industrial Evolution

June 2, 2014 at 12:46 pm
By Callum McCulloch '15

Rainy Arb Walk
If all your troubles are melting away, watch out for floods.

Today, the Arb can be thought of in three main units: water and wetlands, forest, and restored prairie. This is an over-simplified view of the Arb, but much different than how the we viewed the land a few decades ago. It is now most apt to subdivide the Arb by its ecological habitats, but for years the Arb could predominantly be segregated into areas of different land use. In the past 40 years, the Arb has transitioned from diversified, intensive land use to a place of conservation, recreation and research through active management. Ongoing projects in the Arb strive to return the Arb to its pre-settlement state, while also allowing for recreation.

Look around the Arb and you may see some signs that reflect its varied land usage. Many replanted fields, especially those in the Upper Arb and the north end of the Lower Arb, are oriented north-south or east-west in a straight line that demarcates an old agricultural field from a line of trees that served as a wind block. Several agricultural fields still exist in the Arb, alongside Highway 19. Even Kettle Hole Marsh, a glacially formed wetland depression, shows signs of the long agricultural use of the Arb through sediment aggradation.

Before it became the Arb we know today, this land saw a variety of uses. From 1914-1964, Carleton operated a sizable dairy farm run by students. The Rec Center parking lot now marks where the dairy once stood and most of the surrounding area was pasture. Many students used to walk to town on bridges that spanned the Cannon River. These bridges have been removed, but the piers are still visible on the banks of the Cannon. Groundskeeper Dresdon Stewart, “Stewsie,” transplanted sizable trees from the Arb to Carleton’s main campus. Some of these excavations that were never filled are still visible in the Arb. The earth berm along the Cannon in the Lower Arb was a dam to hold water during the summer months for a grist mill in the late 1800s. Parts of the stone dam are still visible in the Cannon. Over the past few decades Carleton’s Arb has changed from a patchwork of different industrial land uses to a natural restoration designed for conservation, recreation and research.

- Callum McCulloch ’15, for the Cole Student Naturalists

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