Foggy future for Centenary Arboretum

Civilians walking through the center of the Ed Leuck Arboretum on Centenary's campus after a Mardi Gras parade, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Civilians walking through the center of the Ed Leuck Arboretum on Centenary’s campus after a Mardi Gras parade, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The retiring of Dr. Ed Leuck, the botanist behind Centenary College of Louisiana’s Arboretum, is bringing the future of the campus staple into question. Centenary is small liberal arts school in northern Louisiana, which has discovered a method of creating campus aesthetics into an educational tool through the Arboretum built into the campus scenery.

Both Dr. Leuck and his wife, Beth, will be retiring in the next two years. While his microbiology position is crucial to the school’s pre-health curriculum, with increasingly low enrollment Dr. Leuck is skeptical of Centenary replacing his ‘ecology’ position. Without an ecologist that is also a botanist; there will be little classroom application for the Arboretum. He is also concerned about the upkeep upon his departure, he intends to attempt to negotiate returning to the school twice a year to help with major upkeep, however nothing has been set in stone.

One of the main paths into the Arboretum next to the science building, Mickle Hall, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Arboretum provides aesthetic value to the campus as well as educational tools.
One of the main paths into the Arboretum next to the science building, Mickle Hall, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Arboretum provides aesthetic value to the campus as well as educational tools.

“I might do this for several years,” Leuck said. “If not, it could look bad soon.” While the large trees would have a good chance of surviving, smaller plants will dwindle without proper care. Currently, Dr. Leuck requires his ecology students as well as entry-level biology students collect samples from the Arboretum each semester. He had hoped to pass his overseeing duties to Professor Troy Messina, however Messina left the institution last year along with a multitude of other faculty members.

“I think I would have already left without the Arboretum for my sanity, as something that I could personally control and contribute.” Leuck said. While he hopes the best for the future of the Arboretum, he believes without another botanical ecologist, this on-campus beauty might begin to fade.

The financing of the Arboretum is also a relevant issue – according to Leuck the funding soon may need to come out of the Biology academic budget.

“ A question here is why it should fall to Biology when it is a whole-campus feature.” Leuck said. In order for this proposal to work, adequate funding would need to be added to the Biology budget to maintain the Arboretum. However if this does not happen, lack of adequate funding could be crippling to its future.

Small plant in Centenary's Arboretum, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Shreveport Louisiana. Many of the plants continue to thrive in cold winter months.
Small plant in Centenary’s Arboretum, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in Shreveport Louisiana. Many of the plants continue to thrive in cold winter months.

“I pretty much go out every day to see what is happening, what needs to be pulled, cleaned, moved, cut,” Leuck said. “May through September the push is grass-cutting – I or my helper do all maintenance. Campus ground folks are not allowed. I mow high and not often.”

Leuck has collected all of the plants locally and has a log from where they came. There are multiple specimens of many plants, and all species are labeled with their common and scientific names. The arboretum began in 1985 with no budget or laid out plan, and was further expanded in 1991 to encompass nearly three acres. It helps to show the campus and community what can be done with native rather than alien species, as well as providing an educational tool for Centenary students and visitors. It contains at least two thirds of the woody species in Louisiana.

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