Spoon River College students who are members of SEA (Students for Environmental Action) and Alpha Gamma Tau (agriculture fraternity) hosted a bonfire November 14 in the area between the Snapper Villas and the SRC Arboretum on the Canton Campus. The two student groups teamed up earlier in the semester to discuss restoration of the Arboretum and a way to make it a place where students and community members can enjoy nature.

SEA advisor Jim Sheff and Alpha Gamma Tau advisor Allyson Smith both hope that this bonfire is just the first in many activities and events that can be hosted at the Arboretum, a 10-acre tract of native trees and trails on the northern edge of the Spoon River College Canton campus.

“We had a good turn-out, the students had a blast, and they are already asking if we can have another one in the spring,” said Sheff.

The idea of an arboretum was born and sponsored by the SRC Foundation in 1979 for use as an outdoor learning laboratory, as well as for community groups such as art, photography, bird watching, and wildlife study. Development began in 1980, funded by private donations, fund-raising efforts, and a $55,853 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.

Currently, the arboretum provides forestry and conservation educational opportunities to students in the agriculture program as well as biology students. The annual Section 12 FFA forestry competition is also held there, but both Sheff and Smith would like to see it getting more use by more people.

“I would like to see the arboretum used more by our students and our community for hikes, walking the dogs, education, graduation or family pictures, but mainly just a spot to get out into nature and clear your mind,” Smith said.