Tiger Giving Day donors and students upgrade Auburn’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum

Published: June 24, 2019
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Auburn University’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum has a new bridge, making the gardens compliant with the American Disabilities Act, or ADA. Donors who supported the arboretum through Tiger Giving Day on Feb. 21 provided funding for supplies to rebuild the bridge.

“We are so grateful for the support we received to make our bridge-expansion project possible,” said Morgan Beadles, Davis Arboretum director. “We received 125 percent of our goal, which meant we were able to do even more to make our collection accessible to visitors.”

Students from Auburn’s McWhorter School of Building Science in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction designed and constructed the bridge, using composite wood material—recycled plastic and sawmill byproducts—which is more durable and environmentally sound.

“Working with the students was wonderful,” Beadles said. “Through their work on our bridge, they have left a lasting mark on Auburn’s campus that they will continue to visit for years to come.”

Located on 13.5 acres on main campus, Auburn University’s botanical gardens, the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, feature a collection of the native plants of Alabama and the southeastern United States. With one of the oldest collections in the Southeastern Conference, Auburn is also the only university in the conference to have a nationally accredited collection of any kind. The garden’s oak collection has carried that distinction since 2010, and the university’s azalea collection received accreditation this year.

“People call our gardens a hidden gem,” Beadles said. “I describe it more as a crowning jewel.”

The arboretum’s bridge project is the most recent effort in an ongoing commitment to ensure the gardens are accessible and enjoyable for all visitors. Previous improvements include updated landscaping and relocation and placement of individual exhibits.

In 2018, Tiger Giving Day support provided lighting throughout a portion of the gardens, creating safe walkways for visitors to enjoy the arboretum’s collections from dawn to dusk. Diverse terrain, water features, a large pond and an array of live exhibits were difficult to navigate and enjoy after sunset prior to the lighting. Gifts to the project provided functional, subtle and efficient lighting that enhances the enjoyment of the collection.

Planned future improvements include repainting the red covered bridge and arbors, expanding the lighting throughout the entire collection and widening walkways to increase accessibility, ensuring everyone, regardless of mobility status, can enjoy the gardens.

Future goals for the arboretum also include building a children’s garden and nature center to create an educational resource for children to play, explore and interact while learning about their natural environment.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.