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Clayton State celebrates Second Annual Arbor Day Ceremonies

Clayton State University mascot, Loch, entertains children from Watch Me Grow Learning Center in Forest Park before Arbor Day ceremonies kicked off in the university’s quad courtyard Friday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

Clayton State University mascot, Loch, entertains children from Watch Me Grow Learning Center in Forest Park before Arbor Day ceremonies kicked off in the university’s quad courtyard Friday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Aliyah Dixon high-fives Clayton State University mascot, Loch, during the school’s Arbor Day Celebrations Friday. Dixon, 5, is a Georgia Lottery Pre-K student at Watch Me Grow Learning Center in Forest Park. The program was invited to participate in the festivities at Clayton State. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Justin Brooks is the landscape management director at Clayton State University. He spoke during the university’s Second Annual Arbor Day Celebration Friday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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William Bedingfield and Justin Brooks of Clayton State University’s landscape management department pose in front of a Japanese Stewartia. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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William Bedingfield, a member of the grounds crew at Clayton State University, turns and mixes soil as part of preparation to plant 20 hardwood trees in the university’s quad courtyard Friday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

MORROW — The soft leaves rustled in the wind as students and faculty gathered in the quad courtyard to participate in the celebrations.

Clayton State University and its tree committee hosted the Second Annual Arbor Day Observance Friday.

Justin Brooks, the university’s landscape management director, was among them. He gave a welcome to visitors and a brief telling of the importance of trees in the environment, particularly on the Clayton State campus.

“I love it (the campus) because it’s like a hidden jewel,” said Brooks, who has been on staff since 2011.

He has been a horticulturalist and arborist the past 10 years, most recently serving the profession in the Fayette County Building and Grounds Department and at the Atlanta Botanica Garden.

Brooks leads an 11-member crew that manages the 186-acre campus he describes as impressively diverse.

“The campus really is the perfect ecosystem,” he said. “It’s a natural habitat for animals and beneficial insects.”

Brooks said his department is proactively seeking landscapes that incorporate shrubs, perennials and hardwood trees that students and visitors can enjoy generations into the future.

“The trees we’re planting here will be here for hundreds of years for people to enjoy,” said Brooks, noting the practical benefits.

Spring blossoms and fall foliage fulfill an ornamental purpose, while the tree canopies provide shade and help keep buildings cool in the summer.

Friday’s Arbor Day celebration featured the planting of several hardwood tree varieties, including the Fringe Tree, the Japanese Stewartia, the Carolina Silverbell and the Sugar Maple. Brooks said those trees will eventually replace some of the older evergreens and tall pines that are “on their last legs.”

The event’s keynote speakers were Clayton State Vice President of Business and Operations Corlis Cummings and Senior Director of Facilities Management Harun Biswas.

The ceremony included a presentation as well.

The Arbor Day Foundation recently honored Clayton State with a 2013 Tree Campus USA recognition for its commitment to effective urban forest management and conservation education.

A Georgia Forestry Commission representative presented the university with the plaque from Tree Campus USA, a national awards program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Additional activities included guided tours by Clayton State students of the “Plants of the Piedmont” trail just off the lake near Spivey Hall. Children were able to paint small terracotta pots to take home.

To learn more about Clayton State’s conservation efforts, visit www.clayton.edu.