Donated nature preserve serves university as 'living' classroom

primative trail

David Schob

A nature preserve just two miles from the Texas A&M campus, a gift to the university from David E. Schob, a beloved history professor who died in 2007, has been transformed into a permanent, “living” classroom that landscape architecture and park and tourism sciences students will use for design and research projects.

Dignitaries including Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture and Gary Ellis, head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, led an Oct. 24, 2014 dedication ceremony at the 7.43-acre preserve, located on Ashburn Avenue in the Eastgate subdivision in College Station.

Schob, a Texas A&M faculty member for 26 years, truly loved to teach history, said Roger Sheridan, executor of the Schob estate.

“His classes were always large. If you were his student you felt as if you were ‘living the history,’” said Sheridan. “He would be so very proud that his land will be a nature preserve for so many to enjoy just as he had and, as an added bonus, it will be a teaching tool for students forever.”

The donated land, with a swath of untouched woods, also contains the three-bedroom, two-bath residence Schob called home. The site now includes hiking trails, a new drainage swale, two pergolas and new plants installed from a 2012 site plan created by Michael Murphy, a retired Texas A&M professor of landscape architecture.

The residence will be offered at a subsidized rate to LAUP and RPTS students in exchange for conducting and coordinating research projects, contributing to education programs and providing general oversight at the preserve.

Murphy’s site plan was approved by the Schob Park Oversight Board, which includes members from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and RPTS. The two departments will jointly operate the preserve with help from the Dr. David E. Schob Fund, a $1.9 million endowment.

The site’s entry features two pergolas suitable for small gatherings surrounded by non-native turf. Beyond this area, where the preserve transitions to a less developed state, the trail surface changes from pavers to crushed stone amid plantings of native drought-resistant grass.

The rest of the site will remain undeveloped, facilitating a variety of research and educational projects and programs by LAUP and RPTS students, some of which are already under way. 

This semester, a group of students led by Ming-Han Li, professor of landscape architecture, is designing and installing a temporary landscape in the preserve. “The key aspect is that students will get hands-on experience installing the project,” said Li.

They will also design and install new landscaping features at the residence, he said.

Li joins Scott Shafer, an associate RPTS department head, as a Schob scholar, appointed by the preserve’s oversight board. The two scholars will coordinate future teaching and research activities at the site, many of which will be supported by the endowment.

posted November 4, 2014