Arboretum the focus of Girl Scout Gold Award project

Montgomery native Mia Johnston added signage, bridges and more to help improve the arboretum's walking trails.

Montgomery native Mia Johnston added signage, bridges and more to help improve the arboretum's walking trails.

The walking trails at Troy University’s arboretum received several upgrades recently, thanks to the hard work of a Girl Scout Ambassador.

Mia Johnston, a senior at Booker T. Washington Magnet School in Montgomery, Alabama, chose the arboretum as the focus of her Gold Award project. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the most prestigious award that Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors can earn.

Through her troop leader, Lisa Harden, Johnston learned TROY’s biology department was looking for volunteers—a Boy Scout troop—to help continue clearing out the trails. Johnston volunteered, and the offer was accepted.

“It worked out perfectly for me, and I’m very happy Dr. Sig Harden (Chair of the biology department) gave me that opportunity,” she said. 

Over the course of approximately 90 hours of labor, Johnston provided new signage for each trailhead, built two bridges, a set of stairs and a ramp and helped finish outlining a trail.

“One thing I noticed when I first came out here was there was no signage, so I made all of the signs that are around the trails and used a router to cut them out, put them in the ground and painted them so they’d match the maps,” she said. “There was water damage on the Magnolia Trail, so I built two bridges for that. There was one bridge that had a very high step up that I built stairs for on one side and a ramp on the other, and here were also a few trails that needed to still be cleared out and lined, so I lined those so people can clearly see where they’re going.”

Dr. Alvin Diamond, biology professor and arboretum director, said what she accomplished was no small feat.

“We’re very thankful for Mia and for the work she did. She spent a lot of time out here asking questions and seeing what needed to be done, and even more hours putting in the work,” he said. “We’re very proud of her for these accomplishments, and we invite everyone to come out to the arboretum, walk the trails and appreciate her hard work along with us.”

The arboretum encompasses 75-acres and features seven and a half miles of nature trails, over 500 identified plant species, a pond, an outdoor classroom and an indoor classroom. Classes are currently being held in the newly-renovated outdoor classroom, and an area has been cleared for a pollinator garden for bees, butterflies and other important pollinators. Future upgrades will feature installing informational kiosks and two self-guided, half-mile nature trails.