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Navy volunteers help MSU's Crosby Arboretum
PICAYUNE -- When Navy Petty Officer First Class Andrew Ribar realized the Mississippi State University Crosby Arboretum could use a little help, he mustered all hands on deck.
Ribar, a military community outreach coordinator for the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Survey Team located at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, brought about 20 Navy chiefs and first class petty officers to work on the arboretum in Picayune on May 8.
The group, members of the Navy’s meteorology and oceanography activities at Stennis, sanded and painted the entrance gates, pruned vegetation along the trails and constructed part of the pathway for the new Swamp Forest Educational Exhibit at the public garden.
“The arboretum is a true jewel in this area,” Ribar said. “They offer so many valuable educational opportunities for children and adults who are interested in nature. And the Navy was glad to be able to offer our assistance.”
The 104-acre arboretum displays three basic habitats found in the Pearl River Basin and provides conservation-focused educational exhibits and events for all ages. It is the premier native plant conservatory in the Southeast and serves as a research facility for MSU Extension scientists and students.
After visiting the arboretum with his family, Ribar organized volunteers from Navy commands at Stennis. His group conducts four community service projects per year in the area.
“I brought my kids here, and I realized what a great resource it is,” Ribar said. “It’s so valuable, especially to children who don’t have the opportunity to be close to nature on a daily basis. They can touch things and smell things and truly explore what’s out here.”
With only five full-time staff members, the arboretum relies on volunteers to help with many tasks, from cataloging library books to assisting with events. The facility has 93 active volunteers, who work both individually and in groups.
“The arboretum was intentionally designed to operate with minimal maintenance,” said Pat Drackett, arboretum director. “But periodically, we have larger projects that require more labor, such as new trails within exhibits. Having a bigger volunteer group allows us to accomplish time-consuming projects much more quickly.”
Cathy Seals Bordelon, the arboretum’s volunteer coordinator, said the arboretum appreciates the Navy’s support.
“We are very blessed to have the Navy come out and help us today,” Seals Bordelon said. “We absolutely would not be able to run the arboretum without the help of our volunteers, and it is rare that we have such a large group.”
Seals Bordelon said the arboretum always welcomes its volunteers.
“We have tasks for all interests and abilities,” she said. “We have someone who keeps the library in order, volunteers who perform trail maintenance, and others who work in the greenhouse. Volunteers also help with our large public events, such as the Piney Woods Heritage Festival.”
The arboretum also relies on support from local business and industry, such as Avon Engineered Fabrications, which provided lunch for the Navy volunteers.
For more information about the arboretum or to volunteer, visit http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or call the arboretum office at 601-799-2311.