Students plant trees, clean up creek during ‘Alter...

Students plant trees, clean up creek during ‘Alternative Fall Break’

About 60 MTSU students turned out on a beautiful day Oct. 16 to lend a hand in protecting the environment through planting trees and removing litter along a local creek.

The Tennessee Environmental Council partnered with the university’s Stormwater Program and the city of Murfreesboro for the tree-planting event along Garrison Creek in east Murfreesboro.

Not only did students help plant about 250 trees along the creek bed, which runs behind the Kroger property on Lascassas Pike, they provided enough manpower to also allow the removal of a significant amount of litter.

Such efforts ultimately protect the local groundwater by removing pollutants that would make their way into local streams otherwise.

MTSU alumnus John McFadden, foreground, executive director of the Tennessee Environmental Council, instructs students taking part in MTSU’s Alternative Fall Break on Oct. 16. Students volunteered to plant trees as part of the TEC tree planting/stream bank restoration project along Garrison Creek. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

Jacqueline Smith, a junior public relations major also minoring in health care services, was among the motivated students who wanted to serve during their last day of fall break. Some garnered community service credit for their classes.

“I really enjoyed myself because I learned how to properly plant a tree,” Smith said, then added with a smile, “I learned that trees are ‘tree-mendous’ for our community.”

John McFadden, executive director of the Tennessee Environmental Council and an MTSU alumnus, said such events by the nonprofit conservation organization depend on volunteer assistance, as well as partnerships with entities such as the city of Murfreesboro.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers that MTSU provided,” McFadden said. “In the process, we’re educating them and the community about the value of nature resources. For example, homes that are closer to this stream, as we restore it, are going to be worth more than those homes that are farther away.”

Jackie Victory, director of the MTSU Office of Leadership and Service, said the student volunteer effort was part of the “Alternative Fall Break.” Her office provides community service opportunities for students interested in doing something outside the norm during their brief respite from classes.

“It’s open to any student to participate,” she said. “We helped plant trees today. … It was nice. Our students were able to come off-campus and do some work.”

MTSU sophomore Maecey Greeson helps junior Leslie Dalecke get water as part of MTSU’s Alternative Fall Break 2012.

McFadden said trees are very important to creeks and water quality, and they’re also important to the overall economy.

“We know that natural resources are the backbone of our economy and our communities,” he said. “We’re trying to restore one of those natural resources —  Garrison Creek.”

Sophomore nursing major Orttables Slater, a Chattanooga native, said she removed quite a bit of trash, including baby wipes, plastic bags and fast-food containers.

“It was a fun experience,” she said, adding that passing motorists noticed the students’ work. “People yelled out, ‘Thank you for helping.’ It was nice.”

To learn more about the Tennessee Environmental Council, visit To learn more about MTSU’s Stormwater Program and its upcoming activities, visit

Students seeking more service opportunities can  visit

— Jimmy Hart (