New arboretum in the works: A place to explore, learn and relax in nature

The students who are behind the construction of an arboretum, which they proposed back in Fall of 2019, are finally seeing it become a reality. 

The arboretum is located between Wheelwright Auditorium and Baxley Hall. 

Robert Mealy, the Sprout club president and a junior at Coastal, was part of the original group that proposed the arboretum development. Sprout is a student organization that promotes sustainability activities and provides educational experiences for students on campus, according to Coastal Connections. 

Mealy said conservation is a big part of his career path in marine biology, so he has been on board with the project from the beginning. He said the arboretum was placed beside Wheelwright because of the area’s high number of native trees. He said there are plans for many new developments. 

“We’re planning on turning the whole campus into an arboretum with native and non-native trees,” Mealy said. 

There are other new additions coming to the arboretum as well.  

Dominique Cagalanan, director of arboriculture, said she hopes the arboretum can even become an outdoor learning space for classes on campus. 

“An arboretum is like a curated collection of trees. You can think of it as kind of an outdoor museum where all of the pieces are actually the trees,” Cagalanan said. “It’s a space to get people to explore, to learn, and also to just enjoy and appreciate being in nature.” 

Cagalanan said she has three student assistants helping on this project who she refers to as her “tree team.” 

Junior Ellie Wolski is a member of the tree team. She said some of her responsibilities as a student assistant include geotagging trees and collecting data on them. She said the tree team is uploading all the information collected from trees on campus to a database that will function as an interactive map. The tree team also helps maintain CCU grounds mostly in areas surrounding the arboretum. 

Wolski said her passion for environmental restoration is what led her to getting involved with the arboretum. 

“I thought this would be great experience for me to get a base knowledge for what it’s like to rehabilitate an area,” Wolski said. 

Wolski said the tree team is setting up a database that will provide people with information about each species of tree which they have tagged in the arboretum. She said things like each tree’s carbon imprint and how much oxygen it gives off will be included on the database. 

“I think it makes it much more tangible for people that aren’t like as crazy about nature as I am,” Wolski said in reference to the database. 

Wolski also said the arboretum builds social capital on CCU’s campus. She said the main focus of the arboretum is the community it creates. 

Cagalanan said the arboretum development process started in the Fall of 2019 with the relocation of several palmetto trees in front of Baxley Hall to a palmetto grove behind Wheelwright auditorium. 

Anyone who may want to engage with the arboretum, such as organized field trips, can reach out to Cagalanan at [email protected].