Mississippi Urban Forest Council Honors Campus Landscapers with Statewide Award

OXFORD, Miss. – Scores of journalists from around the world began their
reports on last week’s presidential debate by mentioning the natural
beauty of the University of Mississippi campus.

That beauty has been officially lauded. The Mississippi Urban Forest
Council has honored Ole Miss with its annual Scenic Communities of
Mississippi award, which recognizes the university’s commitment to a
range of activities to protect the environment, as well as planting and
maintaining trees on its 1,000-acre campus.

Donna Yowell, executive director of the Mississippi Urban Forest
Council, presented the award Wednesday morning to UM Landscape Services
Director Jeff McManus and Chancellor Robert Khayat in a ceremony on the
Quad near Paris-Yates Chapel. The ceremony was followed by a reception
for dozens of landscape services employees.

 “I think it is a great honor for the Ole Miss family and
landscaping team,” McManus said. “It is great recognition for the
campus, and it shows our commitment to the continued enhancement of our
facilities and grounds.”

The Oxford campus is home to some of the state’s largest and oldest
trees, including a Northern catalpa with a circumference of nearly 21
feet, and Mississippi’s largest Osage orange tree.

 “This past year alone, another 754 trees were planted, pushing the
university’s inventory to well over 6,000 trees,” McManus said.

 “Ole Miss works hard to maintain their tree growth, and they have a
great track record of maintenance of trees as well as the planting of
new trees,” Yowell said. One thing that distinguished the university
from other applicants for the award is the care given to the towering
oaks and other trees in the Grove, she said.

The shade provided by trees is a major part of the campus’ atmosphere,
she said. “Can you imagine walking around this campus without the
shade?”

Other factors that were considered include efforts to combat litter on
campus, protect water quality and control storm runoff, Yowell said.

The award has been more than a decade in the making, Khayat said,
noting that maintaining the campus’ beauty has been a priority under
his leadership since 1995.

“This is a huge compliment to the people here on our landscape team and
to Jeff McManus and his leadership team,” Khayat said. “The first thing
people see when they come here is a manicured, loved, embraced
landscape.”

The Landscape Services Department has received other awards in recent
years, including the 2002 Grand Award from the Professional Grounds
Management Society for having the nation’s best-maintained campus.

Many hours are spent mowing, weeding, planting, distributing pine straw
and spraying to keep the campus looking healthy and polished.

“No matter where you drive up on a college campus, you only get one
shot at a first impression,” McManus said. “We want our campus to make
a statement: ‘You are at Ole Miss.’”

 For more information on the Landscaping Services Department, go http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/landscape/.

(kathleen williams and mitchell diggs)