First lady park project recognized

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Cassie Gibbs

News Editor

The Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Alabama Power Co. have recognized a wetlands restoration project in connection with the Janice Hawkins Park on Troy University’s campus.

This project is one of 10 projects in the region that were recognized.

Mark Salmon, the director of the university’s physical plant and the “Persimmon Branch Wetlands Enhancement” project, said that the university has received between  $200,000 ad $300,000 in grants.

“We’re hopeful that as we go forward, we can secure several million dollars more toward future projects,” Salmon said.

Jim Bookout, senior vice chancellor of finance and business affairs and the co-director of the enhancement project, was not able to give the total amount of funds received by the university for the project.

Salmon said that Hawkins played a major role in the changes at Troy that resulted in the campus known today.

He said that once the park was established in Hawkins’ name, he, Jim Bookout and  Janice Hawkins developed a three-step plan to enhance Troy’s campus.

“It’s divided into three phases,” Salmon said. “The first phase was very much the formalized park area you see across the street from Trojan Village, and where we’re building that new resident hall.

“Phase two gets into the amphitheater area, which is what we have been working on the past couple of years, and we’re just finishing up. It’s turned out to be absolutely beautiful.”

The third phase, according to Salmon, will focus on the forested areas and the lagoon on campus.

These areas were being cleared out during the development of the actual park.

“This has been a process of moving out invasive plants and other types of things that have established themselves in this area,” Salmon said. “(We are) trying to go back and restore much of the natural vegetation and those things that are indigenous to the state of Alabama.”

This is one part of the recognized restoration project.

“We’ve been cleaning up and working on stream restoration and pieces where we’re trying to minimize the amount of erosion and pollutants that come into the park.”

Salmon said this aspect of the restoration project helped the university earn a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This grant allowed the university to minimize erosion from the storm water that comes from campus and roads and enters the park.

This work was mostly focused along Luther Drive, according to Salmon.

Students from the elementary school to the university level have used this project as a learning tool.

“We set up an area to trap sedimentation and other things and just do more to develop what is more of a marshy area,” Salmon said.

He said that in the next few years the members of the project hope to have more stream restoration and build more bridges and walkways near the lagoon.

A boardwalk area similar to those found near “more established centers around lakes and other settings” and walking trails will also be found throughout the park.

The trails will be available to people during the day. They will not be lighted for night use.

“There’s just too many risks involved there with trying to light up a forest,” Salmon said.

He said that the park is meant to show that it is possible to develop an inner-city forested area that students and the community can enjoy.

Salmon said that the completion of the park would depend on the funding the university receives.

“As those resources come, that will help us establish a more defined schedule of when we can do that,” Salmon said. “We would like to think that we could get all this accomplished over the next three, to five, to maybe seven years.”

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