Officials from Troy University and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) gathered at the University’s arboretum and nature preserve Wednesday morning to commemorate the installation of a floating pier and bridge made possible by a $25,000 grant awarded by HMMA’s Charitable Giving Program last year.
HMMA’s Charitable Giving Program concentrates efforts toward improving education, supporting the cultural arts, celebrating diversity, protecting the environment and promoting health, physical fitness, and recreation. In addition to replacing the bridge to the island in Mullis Pond and installing the floating pier, the funds were used to clear fallen trees, plant native wetland plants around the pond and install trash cans.
Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. said the continued upgrades and investments into the arboretum is another sign of the University’s maturation into a research institution. He also spoke about the responsibility we all bear to care for the world around us.
“There’s an inherent responsibility in life to leave things better than you find them, and I think this is a wonderful symbol of that,” Dr. Hawkins said. “Preserving the past is progress, but I believe it is part of our responsibility to the future to focus on what this place can be and what more we can do. With the partnership of great people we can make a difference, and I’m excited about the future of this arboretum.”
The grant was awarded in the spring of 2022, and a check presentation was held last October. On the first visit to campus last year, HMMA Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Robert Burns said he perceived this opportunity as a starting point to continue to contribute to TROY after a long hiatus.
“We’re excited to be able to do something really special for the students and faculty. Having this option for a new teaching or learning experience is important to us as well because it’s an opportunity to grow in a different way in an amazing environment,” he said. “Us being able to make this contribution has reinvigorated our partnership with TROY.”
Joshua Bailey, a graduate student in the environmental science program and a graduate assistant at the arboretum, said the additions not only made the arboretum’s pond and trails more accessible, they have opened up new avenues of research for students.
“The dock allows our students to take accurate and reliable water samples in seconds, it gives our zoology classes a place to anchor fish and turtle traps and our botany classes can use the bridge to go under the springhead and look at cypresses and sphagnum moss,” he said. “It’s an entire world of research that is now available and accessible, meaning that our students will now graduate and leave better prepared with a deeper understanding of our environment.”
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. Restoration efforts began in early 2022 when care of the arboretum was transferred back under the wing of Dr. Alvin Diamond and the College of Arts and Sciences. Since then, and with the help of a team of volunteers from across the University and community, extensive work has been done to return the grounds to its former glory.
“The arboretum is a gem, and we’re working hard to amplify not only the educational opportunities we can offer our students and the public, but the natural beauty of this area,” said Dr. Steven Taylor, Dean of the CAS. “This is a huge contribution from Hyundai, and it’s very gratifying to have someone in the community support our activities and help provide better opportunities for our students.”
To stay up-to-date on the latest projects, visit the arboretum’s Facebook page.