The Arbor Day Foundation named the university a 2013 Tree Campus USA School this month, marking the third time JSU has received the designation since 2011.
“It was really the students that made this happen,” said Susan Di Biase, a member of the city of Jacksonville’s Tree Commission and the university’s Tree Advisory Committee.
A small group of students, faculty and staff members and Jacksonville residents began working together several years ago to achieve the recognition. Using a set of Arbor Day Foundation standards as a guideline, the group formed the committee, developed a tree-care plan and worked with the city to host an Arbor Day program.
Since 2011, the JSU grounds crew has planted more than 200 trees, adding oaks, dogwoods and other varieties to the older trees already on the landscape.
“The overall goal is just to expand the canopy itself,”said Tyler Law, the campus grounds supervisor.
To receive the designation, schools must also participate in projects that promote civic engagement and community education.
For the past two years the Tree Advisory Committee has worked with the city’s Tree Commission to host a tree giveaway to fulfill the requirement.
During last year’s giveaway, the groups handed out more than 2,000 trees, Law said. Organizers expect to give away that many this year, too. The event will be hosted by the by the Tree Commission and the Calhoun County Beautification Board, and will be held at the Jacksonville Public Square on Feb. 21 between noon and 5 p.m.
The trees to be handed out will include buttonbush, ash, dogwood, red maple, crepe myrtle and oaks, according to an event announcement provided by Di Biase. The trees will be paid for by Alabama Power and the Alabama Forestry Commission.
On Feb. 25, the university and city groups will host with the city an Arbor Day celebration including an oak tree planting ceremony at the university’s International House at 3:30 p.m. The Arbor Day event will include a speech, poetry contest and an award presentation.
The Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA program began in 2008 with a sponsorship by Toyota. Since then, the foundation and Toyota have helped campuses throughout the country plant trees and have invested $26 million for conservation and management efforts on campuses, a release posted on the university website states.
Three universities in Alabama received the recognition last year: JSU, Auburn University and the University of West Alabama.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.