Did you know that Westminster College is home to three amazing places to experience nature? One is Brittain Lake, probably the most popular. In addition to this water feature, Westminster also contains the college woods (located behind Jeffers) and the bio trail (located behind the soccer field and tennis courts). While many students may have visited one or more of these locations before, others are completely unfamiliar with the amazing areas. Despite being on campus for four years, senior Maddie Craig doesn’t know much about the areas.
“I’ve been out there, but I vaguely know their layout and what they have to offer.”
To combat this issue, Director of the Outdoor Laboratory and Associate Professor of Environmental Science Dr. Patrick Krantz is working to improve people’s experiences at the outdoor laboratories. With the help of his Intro to Environmental Science class, he is creating informational signage for the bio trail. These signs will contain information about each landmark on the trail, as well as appropriate images. Dr. Krantz broke down what would be on each sign:
“Near the Nature Center, the signs have information about the history of the barn, community garden, microforest, succession, and the bird blind. The kiosk near the labyrinth has a side dedicated to Sandy Edmiston and the other side has information about bluebird boxes, animal tracks, and composting. The kiosk nearest to the lake has info about lake flora and fauna.”
One of the big things that these posters are missing, however, is a map. Students and faculty alike have taken a stab at creating a map of the entire outdoor labs together and the bio trail individually. Nothing worked. Dr. Krantz brought up this issue to my digital journalism class, and a light bulb went off in my head. Before I knew it, I had volunteered myself to create a map of the entire bio trail, and was getting ready to have my first consultation with Dr. Krantz.
I am a senior Media Art and Graphic Design major who loves volunteering for any project that requires the slightest design skills, even if I have no clue what I’m getting myself into. This was the perfect example. I didn’t start out volunteering to make a map. It came up during class, but I was expecting to do some layouts and text for the signage. That turned out not being the case.
Upon my first meeting with Dr. Krantz, we discussed his experiences, his vision, and my abilities. Student had attempted to create a map of the bio trail, but simply used screenshots from Google maps and some shaky line work. After sifting through some valid, but unsatisfying maps, Dr. Krantz broke down what he wanted from me.
He presented me with-yet another-Google map screenshot that had each of the trails outlined in marker. As we continued talking, he then drew arrows, lines, and circles to label different trail names and other landmarks.
As someone who used to frequent the bio trail, I learned a lot just from this conversation. I had no idea how all the trails looped around and connected, which would have prevented me from repeatedly walking the same trail all the time. I learned about all the features surrounding the Nature Center as well. I knew about the fire pit, the garden, and the labyrinth. However, I had no idea there was a bird blind, a microforest, and succession plots. With all this new information in my head, we concluded our meeting and I began planning how to attack this huge project. It was literally huge. The file needed to be two feet wide and a foot and a half tall.
In order to be as accurate as possible, I fell in with the people before me and started with a screenshot of Google maps. I’d like to think that I did it in a more professional fashion. I compiled various screenshots that covered the entire bio trail to be sure that I had detailed enough templates of each section. I used the maps as a base layer and began tracing the visible trails. I used Dr. Krantz’s map as well to make sure I was hitting the right bends and notable areas.
Once the trails were laid out, I began creating representations of each of the key elements included in the bio trail. I used basic shapes to create the Brittain Lake, the soccer fields, the tennis courts, the labyrinth, the bird blind, and other similar landmarks. I also needed to include notable natural elements, such as Little Neshanok Creek, the microforest, the succession plots, the marshes, and arboretum. Again, I kept it simple and only used variations of colors to show the differences. Overall, I wanted to keep the map as simple and 2D as possible. There was a lot of information that needed to go on the map, and I felt that getting too many details would get crowded, especially if the map was shrunk down to a smaller size.
In addition to figuring out the layout of the area, I also had to figure out how to represent patches of trees, grassy areas, and dirt fields. In order to keep with the theme of simplicity, I chose muted colors and clean lines. The only variations are in the trees, which have bumpy and jagged edges. The color and edges show that the section is trees and not grass.
Amid all these design changes, I frequently corresponded with Dr. Krantz. In one instance, I sat down with him for a few hours in order to work through every last detail of the map. It was a long meeting and another example of not knowing what I was getting into when I asked to “stop by”. However, this meeting was one of the most rewarding parts of the project. I got to hear about every piece of the bio trail and it’s story. I learned about the new bird blind and how disappointing it is that it’s currently out of commission because of the weather. I also learned that many of the gardens and other areas are named after donors and alumni. I even got some pro tips on the best spots in the bio trail.
After weeks of hard work, I can look back and be incredibly proud of the work I’ve done and the people I helped. The best kinds of projects are ones that have an impact. This map will go on signage that will guide students and community members through one of my favorite places at Westminster. Will they know I did it? Nope. Will they care? Definitely not. But it’s something that I can look back on and know that I left a little mark on Westminster. Maybe when I’m making millions as a designer I’ll come back and realize how terrible it looks, but for now, I’m impressed and honored to have had the chance to work with Dr. Krantz.
Now all that’s left is for Dr. Krantz and his class to finish up the posters and place them appropriately throughout the bio trail. The signs need to be covered with cork board, have the posters hung on them, then covered with a substance to plexi-glass. Once summer comes around, the signs will be panted to protect them from the weather.