Arboretum volunteers take active role in sustainability efforts

In an effort to encourage community members to, as Geneseo’ sustainability statement puts it, “embrace sustainability as a core value,” the Office of Sustainability held its first-ever Arboretum volunteer day on Saturday Sept. 19 in the Spencer J. Roemer Arboretum.

According to their website the year-old office “recognize[s] the critical role of higher education in creating a sustainable society.” This role can be upheld through programs that include teaching, research and service, as well as efforts to raise awareness to bring about sustainable changes on campus.

Arboretum advisory board chair and associate professor of biology Jennifer Apple explained that the Arboretum “serves as a place for recreation, research and conservation of native species.”

“It is open to students—as well as to the community—as a place where they can enjoy nature and or study,” she added.

Director of Sustainability Dan DeZarn explained that the inspiration behind the establishment of Arboretum maintenance as a community event was to encourage more students to get involved. He added that one of the biggest issues the office faces from public use of the space is that people abuse it. Holding a volunteer event in which students provide aid in the conservation and cleanup processes can help students get a better sense of what goes into maintaining the Arboretum and to develop a deeper appreciation for nature preservation.

The event was held in collaboration with the Arboretum board and Nature Walk Club on campus. According to the Office of Sustainability website, it was one of many initiatives to “support outreach and networking efforts to engage the larger community with campus projects.”

Students braved light rain to participate in activities that included basic ground maintenance and improvement tasks such as adding more woodchips to the entry trail. There were other activities that were planned but were unable to be effectuated due to the weather, including painting park benches, removal of invasive species and planting of native species.

“It’s an opportunity to serve the Arboretum, but it’s also an opportunity for students to get engaged and get hands on experience,” DeZarn said. He proved this in his demonstration to students where he showed how to replace damaged wood scaffold boards on park benches and picnic tables.

“I like the Arboretum, it is a nice place to come and relax or study,” volunteer junior Marcus Converse said. “I believe if we enjoy natural areas on campus, we have to work as a community to sustain it.”