University opens renewed palmetum for Earth Day

Image by Janie Coffey, courtesy of Creative Commons

Samantha Davis/Staff writer

In the rush to get to class, many students cross the walkways behind the Green Library without a second thought, bypassing the collection of palm trees that have been brought from rainforests around the world, according to Ryan Vogel.

“Thousands of students walk by the Green Library everyday and don’t realize that the palm trees around them are from all over the world. We’re trying to make people aware of what’s around them,” said Vogel,  program assistant for the office of sustainability and the nature preserve manager.

The University is celebrating Earth Day on April 22 at 11 a.m. with the inauguration of the completed University Palmetum, which is now one of the largest university palmetums in the nation.

The University palmetum was originally founded in about 22 years ago by Gregory Burdine-Coakley, assistant director of  the department of Life Safety and Utility Systems. According to Vogel, Burdine-Coakley created the Palmetum with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to restore the University landscape after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992 and destroyed many of FIU’s trees.

Since then, the palmetum had not been expanded or recognized, Vogel said. However, a recent grant and some help from the University helped turn things around for the 22-year-old palmetum.

“We received a grant from the International palm Society and funding from the University, which helped us expand the Palmetum,” said Vogel, who worked alongside Curator of Wertheim Conservatory Scott Zona and Grounds Superintendent Mark Salemi to make this event a reality and create awareness about the diversity of palm trees at FIU.

“We have a large population of palm trees, which is why we were able to open this palmetum,” Vogel said. “In terms of size, it’s right behind the Montgomery Botanical Center and Fairchild Tropical Botanical Center, which are the largest palmetums in Miami.”

The Office of  Sustainability partnered with the Honors College and Rescue Earth, a non-profit organization based in Miami, focuses on creating awareness and protecting the environment.[pullquote]“We’re trying to make people aware of what’s around them,” said Ryan Vogel, program assistant for the office of sustainability and the nature preserve manager.[/pullquote]

Speakers at the event include Vogel, Leslie Northup, dean of the Honors College and Yanina Velez, the marketing director of Rescue Earth, a Miami non-profit that partnered with the office of sustainability and the Honors college for the event.

“We dedicate ourselves to raising awareness and educating kids middle school and up about how to protect the environment,” Velez said. “We’re excited to be a part of this opening ceremony.”

The opening ceremony will also feature music from Honors College students, along with an “Earth and Water: Our Planet, Our Life” exhibit from the PIAG Museum on the lake outside the Green Library to create a floating installation.

Northrup will lead the ribbon cutting ceremony and guests will be able to tour the palmetum and PIAG art exhibit.

The purpose of this palmetum opening ceremony is to make students aware of the economic importance of certain palm tree species globally while also celebrating Earth Day, according to Vogel.

“Our goal is to make the palmetum a good gathering place for students. There will be signs on each tree that will have interesting facts and information about its origin,” Vogel said. However, he said the signs may not be placed in time for the event.

The office of sustainability is hoping for a good crowd at the Earth Day ceremony, but they’re not anticipating a large turnout.

“It’s finals week, we’re really not expecting many students to come,” Vogel said. “We don’t expect it to be a huge, lavish event.”

The palmetum opening ceremony is one of the several Earth Day events throughout the week. The Office of University Sustainability also held a volunteering event on April 9, where FIU students and staff planted 420 trees at Zoo Miami. Another upcoming event is the 3rd Annual Earth Day Benefit concert on Sunday, April 27 starting at 4 p.m. and going until midnight.

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