Community Partnerships Amplify Arboretum Impact

Wildflowers in the UCF Arboretum.

The UCF Arboretum’s success as a natural refuge from the bustle of campus life happens largely because of committed staff and volunteers, but there’s another ingredient, too.

Agency partners such as the Florida Forest Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns Water Management District, neighboring county natural resource departments, and many other brought together through the Central Florida Prescribed Fire Council contribute to its success. Additionally, community partners including Rollins College, the Nature Conservancy, Florida Native Plant Society,  and Florida Wildflower Foundation all play a part in creating a welcoming and blossoming environment on the fringe of campus.

“We could not accomplish the goals of our prescribed fire program at UCF without the support of these partner agencies. We do not have the equipment, personal, or experience to do this on our own,” said Program Director Jen Elliott. “These relationships built over 15 years now allow us to accomplish the goals of the program.”

The Arboretum was established in 1983 and spans approximately 83 acres. Responsibly maintaining that acreage is achieved through controlled burns completed in tandem with the Florida Forest Service’s (FFS) Wildfire Hazard Mitigation grant program. Safely burning underbrush rejuvenates the landscape and promotes wildlife habitats. The Arboretum has also collaborated with the Florida Native Plant Society to rescue and relocate plants from development sites into the Arboretum, including threatened Hooded Pitcher Plants.

The Arboretum exists in large part as a hands-on classroom, and Knights regularly invite Rollins Tars from across town to enjoy the living laboratory. Tours teach about the native Florida ecosystems and the importance of managing Florida’s diverse habitats.

Tracy Alt, an environmental studies major and intern on the Arboretum’s Learning by LeadingTM Urban Horticulture team, sees firsthand the benefits of UCF’s natural resources as well as the collaborations and partnerships with these organizations.

“I have always enjoyed spending time in nature. Seeing an institution such as UCF work so hard to protect a significant portion of its main campus from development is inspirational”, Alt said.

Elliott expects the partnerships and collaborations will continue to grow as more agencies turn to UCF for assistance and insight, particularly in complex urban interface prescribe burning.

“We could not do this on our own. It is a huge undertaking and we are forever grateful for the relationship and partnerships we have built through the years,” Elliott said.


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