One DSCC professor’s goal to have an example of each type of the 100 different species of trees native to West Tennessee virgin forests growing and identified on the Dyersburg campus will soon become a reality through Jim Heckethorn’s Eagle Scout project, and the help of his Boy Scout Venture Crew 87.
Associate Professor of Biology Ken Jones has been working on this project since 2001. “Our goal is to create and maintain as accurately as possible the native hardwood community that used to exist along the bluffs of the Mississippi Delta in West Tennessee,” he said. “When we complete this project, we will be able to submit our request to the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council to become a certified arboretum.
“The arboretum will serve as an outdoor educational facility with trees and plants labeled so students of botany or gardening can easily recognize various species,” Jones continued. “With educational signage, we hope to create the most natural and educational experience possible,” he said.
In 2011, Jim Heckethorn worked with Jones in planning his Eagle Scout service project. Because a scout must demonstrate leadership of others while performing a project for the benefit of his community, working with the tree labeling goal was a perfect fit.
After the project was approved, Heckethorn raised money to pay for the educational signs. His uncle, Mike Heckethorn, generously contributed to the project, along with other community members. Once funding was in place, he then, with the help of his troop, installed these signs throughout the campus. Each of the 30 identification signs installed so far carries descriptions of species natural history.
“To complete this project, I plan to produce a map that area teachers can use to identify the trees, as well as activities they can use with their classes. The activities will be geared to different age levels,” said Heckethorn. These final two parts of the project will allow the arboretum to better serve its educational purpose.
“Because the Dyersburg campus is located less than one mile from downtown Dyersburg and all city schools (K-12), our project will promote the education of our students and citizens concerning the natural ecosystem of the Chickasaw Bluffs of West Tennessee,” Jones stated.
Jones hopes the project will to continue to grow. He said, “We received $5,000 in private donations to plant species of native trees that are absent. Since many of these species are not available commercially, we have found private landowners who are willing to allow the transplant of tree saplings, shrubs, and herbaceous species from their properties. We also have commitments from the Boy Scouts of America, and our maintenance staff for watering, mulching and tending to newly planted species, and maintaining the Nature Trail access."
In 2001, the Richard E. Donner Arboretum and Nature Trail was established on a forested portion of the DSCC Dyersburg campus, thanks to donations from the Richard Donner estate. The Martha W. Donner Outdoor Classroom, located adjacent to the Nature Trail, was dedicated in May of 2003. Also in 2003, through funding provided by the USDA and Tennessee Division of Forestry, 84 trees were planted on the Dyersburg campus.
“By contributing $100 to the project, a donor can sponsor one of our plant identification signs. These may be used to memorialize or honor a person, or to commemorate and event,” Jones said. For more information about the project, please contact Jones at 731/286-3367 or email@example.com.