Duke students volunteer to beautify Durham

Sep. 09, 2013 @ 05:39 PM

Slinging pitchforks full of mulch and hammering nails may not be what incoming students had in mind when they applied to Duke University. As the second week of classes begins at Duke University, however, Durham is reaping the rewards from a multitude of service projects fueled by dozens of student volunteers.

Although it was not in their academic curriculum, when the day was done, these volunteers could see the tangible results of their beautification efforts and could feel a sense of accomplishment for their hard work, fostering a connection to their new community.

Students who signed up to participate had the opportunity to learn about and serve with various non-profit groups such as Keep Durham Beautiful. Two Duke service programs, Project BUILD and the Law School’s “Dedicated to Durham,” have become particularly valuable partners to Keep Durham Beautiful in recent years.

August was a busy month for Keep Durham Beautiful volunteer projects in many Durham parks. The Duke students focused on Crest Street Park and Sandy Creek Park.

At Sandy Creek Park, near the intersection of Pickett Road and Sandy Creek Drive, 16 Duke Law School volunteers assisted other community members with several projects funded by a grant to Keep Durham Beautiful from the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission of Durham County. Students modified a fence to create a pedestrian entrance, connected landscape timbers for a mulched border around a swing, shoveled mulch and helped move lumber for deck construction.

At Crest Street Park, near the intersection of Hillandale Road and the Durham Freeway, 48 Project BUILD volunteers spread an estimated 100 yards of mulch along a hillside to beautify and protect 125 young trees previously planted by another group of Keep Durham Beautiful volunteers. Alex Johnson, City of Durham urban forestry manager, explained to the group that mulching the trees would suppress weeds, break down into nutrients and help the soil retain moisture so the young trees could flourish. City of Durham Parks and Recreation staff helped to prepare the site in advance and Duke Energy supplied mulch for the project.

These student-led projects serve to build relationships both among the incoming students and between the students and their greater Durham community. Chatting with the volunteers while we worked, I watched friendships develop and eyes open to the gems that Durham offers in its parks and beautiful spaces. Our community is richer thanks to these Duke service programs and the dedication of the young people who participate.

The 125 Project BUILD volunteers plan to hold a large litter cleanup service event in Durham as part of the upcoming Big Sweep in October. To learn more and join them in the Big Sweep, visit bit.ly/DurhamBigSweep.

Tania Dautlick is executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, bout Keep Durham Beautiful, a non-profit affiliate of Keep America Beautiful that engages and inspires individuals to take greater responsibility for their community environment. Focus areas include litter prevention, recycling and waste reduction, and beautification. To learn more about other volunteer opportunities, visit www.keepdurhambeautiful.org or call 919-354-2729. Be sure to like us at www.facebook.com/KeepDurhamBeautiful or follow us at www.twitter.com/DurhamBeautiful.