Minnetrista shows visitors it’s easy to be green

<p><em>Minnetrista practices sustainability throughout its 40 acres of gardens. The non-profit achieves this through multiple efforts, such as planting Indiana native species, shown here in the Oakhurst Gardens. Photo by Kimberly Harris.</em></p>

Minnetrista practices sustainability throughout its 40 acres of gardens. The non-profit achieves this through multiple efforts, such as planting Indiana native species, shown here in the Oakhurst Gardens. Photo by Kimberly Harris.


With Earth Day coming up on April 22, more and more people are turning their attention to environmental causes and conservation efforts. One local organization that keeps these ideas in mind year-round is Minnetrista. The non-profit has 40 acres of gardens along with a number of resource management strategies to keep Minnetrista and Muncie thriving. 

“We’re showing people alternatives. Minnetrista’s prime objective is education, and this shows people, especially children, what’s going on around them” said Minnetrista horticulture specialist, Spencer Starke. “As one of the few places in Muncie that people can go walk around, and as one of the few museums, I think that education is necessary.” 

Visitors can first learn more about sustainability in Minnetrista’s permanent green roof exhibit. The center building is home to three demonstration green roof systems. Green roofs absorb and slow stormwater runoff with vegetation. Because stormwater collects trash, oil, and chemicals that can all end up back in rivers and oceans, green roofs have an important job of decreasing this risk while providing a home for wildlife and reducing cooling costs in the summer.

The center building’s green roofs do not operate at the full capacity of a normal roof. They are meant to be demonstrative and show visitors how they can apply the concept to their own home or business. 

“We are intentional about showing different ways of mitigating rainwater,” said Rebecca Gilliam, vice president of visitor experiences. “Our job is to show the public what it would look like to use these systems yourself.”

A walk around the Minnetrista grounds shows other sustainability efforts. One of the principal goals of the five-acre Nature Area is to act as a stormwater mitigation system. The Nature Area is located between Centennial Avenue and St. Joseph Street and features a tallgrass prairie, man-made pond, and woodland area. 

Managing stormwater is an important task with big impact. 

“Because we live in an urban environment, we have to deal with watershed,” said Minnetrista horticulture manager, James Edwards. “If we don’t deal with it, it becomes someone else’s problem.”

Other areas of interest around Minnetrista’s campus include the rain gardens. A rain garden is another way to slow down and filter stormwater runoff. Because the water soaks into the ground where the plants’ roots are, the gardens reduce pollutants that would otherwise contaminate waterways.

Minnetrista’s rain gardens are full of native plants that attract pollinators like butterflies and bees. There is another reason the native plants are significant, though.

“It’s our Indiana pride. We’re here and should plant Indiana plants,” Starke said. “It’s showing off the diversity of the state.” 

All these systems can also be seen as a way to honor the Ball family, who originally lived on Minnetrista’s land.

“They cared about the land. It was on their radar,” said curator Jessica Jenkins. “The family put time and effort into their gardens and beautification efforts.”

This summer, visitors can take a national approach to learning about environmentalism. Chad Pregracke’s Message in a Bottle Collection will be featured in an exhibit at Minnetrista. This exhibition showcases a variety of messages in bottles found along U.S. shores by Pregracke and his team, and emphasizes the importance of cleaning America’s rivers. The collection will be on display at Minnetrista June 1 through Sept. 30. 

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