A native plant and bird garden is in the works at CCU

A CCU Alumni is working with the university to build a new garden on campus featuring native plants as part of a larger conservation effort.  


Jacob Condon, CCU alumni and creator of “Jake Watching Birds” conservation brand, said he is looking at placing the garden along the bank of Turtle Pond. Condon said this location is ideal because of the moving water that attracts birds, the potential interaction with pond-life like frogs and turtles, and easy access for people to see the garden in action. He said the garden would quickly have an effect on campus wildlife, including the attraction of migrating birds.  


“I think it’ll just be a very good opportunity to learn, and to get into the mindset that will have a significant impact on the future of not just Coastal’s environment, but the world environment as well,” Condon said. 


He said he chose Coastal as the site for this project because it’s a place of learning with a large population, and for the student organizations invested in conservation. 


Condon said the garden will be centered around the native plants because they actively contribute to the environment. He said they are meant to be in these areas and therefore will require little maintenance as they will provide a habitable space for species in the area, insects and birds. He said they are essentially building an ecosystem on this bank.      


“Everything basically revolves around the plants. The birds are the cool part, but they need the plants, their food needs, the plants which means they need the plants,” Condon said. 


Another goal of the garden is to serve as an educational tool for people who want to learn about and participate in sustainable gardening practices and create a backyard conservationist community. According to the official “Jake Watching Birds” website, starting in the backyard provides habitats for endangered species and keeps common species common. Furthermore, Condon said, according to his own research, the garden could improve students’ mental health by providing a place outside to relax and study.  


He said he hopes people in the community will see what CCU is doing with the garden and adopt these practices. 


“Because, while we’re doing massive projects in rainforests and stuff, we’ve got to conserve the other end of the migration which is in our backyards,” Condon said.  


Condon said a goal of the garden, in terms of the university as whole, is to become a major player in college conservation. He said some aspirations he has is for the garden to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat, or become a hotspot for migrating songbirds and monarch butterflies in the future. 


The project aims to cost about $1,000 in plants, according to Condon, and will hopefully begin construction early in the third week of April before he leaves to another project in Alaska. 


According to Sustain Coastal and Tim Shank, the superintendent of Coastal Grounds, not much more information can be given about the garden because it is so early in the planning stages. 


After graduating from Coastal Carolina University in 2020, Condon started “Jake Watching Birds” and is currently working on a photography project, and looking to expand in the future. He said the goal of the project is to photograph 10,000 species of birds, and 10% of profits from this project will go to bird conservation. Condron said he was inspired to pursue conservation because he has always been an outdoorsman and it gives him a sense of purpose and belonging.