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Funding allows for new Crosby Arboretum exhibits

EXHIBIT TOUR: Representatives of multiple organizations responsible for providing grant funding to build this gum pond exhibit at toured at the arboretum recently. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

EXHIBIT TOUR: Representatives of multiple organizations responsible for providing grant funding to build this gum pond exhibit at toured at the arboretum recently.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Grant funding provided to the Crosby Arboretum made the construction of a major wetland exhibits possible.

The Five Star Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program, of which Southern Company, the National Association of Counties, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Wildlife Habitat Council are involved, provided funding for the construction of two wetland exhibits, said Patricia Berry with Mississippi Power.

Last week, representatives from each of the previously listed companies toured the exhibits.

“Five Star is all about wetland restoration,” Berry said. “So this is a good success story of a Five Star Project.”

In order to receive the grant funding the arboretum had to secure at least five partners, all from private and government sectors.

Each year, grant project applications are reviewed to decide which project will receive funding, said Southern Company Environmental Stewardship Program Manager Leslie Cox. Since inception of the program, more than $10.8 million in grants have funded several conservation and restoration projects, according to the Five Star website.

“Crosby is a successful example that brings all the pieces together,” Berry said. “It was a great wetland restoration project.”

Construction of the gum pond exhibit involved digging up some of the land in the arboretum to create a shallow pond, around which hundreds of swamp black gum trees are now planted. In all, about 400 trees were planted in the exhibit.

To construct the exhibit, a trail large enough for heavy equipment had to be cut from the service road to the site. Today that construction trail is hard to see since the vegetation has regrown.

Arboretum Director Patricia Drackett said the grant for the gum pond exhibit was awarded in 2009, and the project was complete by 2011. The Five Star program provided $32,400 in funding to build the exhibit.

According to previous articles in the Item, the new 1/3 acre exhibit will not only provide another ecosystem for visitors to experience, it will also serve as a home to threatened reptiles, fish, birds and mammals that thrive in gum ponds.

The exhibit will also function as a filter and storage site for storm water as it enters the arboretum.

Five Star also provided $38,000 funding for a second exhibit, the swamp forest, which is still under construction. Drackett said she expects that exhibit to be complete by the end of this summer.

Other projects are also funded through the Five Star program, including the Longleaf Stewardship Fund for trees and the Power of Flight program for birds.