Barnes to receive national award

adrury@macon.comApril 23, 2013 

In the early morning of May 11, 2008, the twisting winds turned Macon State College’s lush, canopied campus into a scene of broken, splintered trees.

“We lost 3,900 trees,” said David Sims, assistant vice president for facilities at the college, now known as Middle Georgia State College.

In the week that followed the Mother’s Day tornado that wiped out 90 percent of the college’s trees, Macon State officials and Dr. Waddell Barnes, a former chairman of the college’s foundation with a keen interest in botany, started planning for the rebirth of the college’s landscape.

The Waddell Barnes Botanical Gardens -- comprising the entire 418-acre Macon campus and the 70 acres on the Warner Robins campus -- are coming back in a big way.

“We came up with a plan, with trees being put back with better varieties and additional, different species,” Sims said. “As the trees mature, we’re going to wind up with a significant regional attraction. It’s going to be better than before.”

For his work to help rebuild the gardens, Barnes has been selected one of 14 recipients of a 2013 award from the national Arbor Day Foundation.

Barnes will be honored with the Lawrence Enersen Award, named after a late architect from Nebraska. The awards ceremony is scheduled for Saturday at the Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City, Neb. Although Barnes will not be able to attend because of a family commitment, Sims will accept the award on his behalf.

“This award does represent his work,” Sims said of Barnes. “He’s certainly deserving of it. He really and truly is a visionary, and he’s added so much to these campuses.”

In addition to his help planning the redevelopment of the landscaping, gardens and trees at the college after the storm, Barnes also launched a “Campus ReLeaf” campaign that raised tens of thousands of dollars, according to an Arbor Day Foundation release.

“The creativity and hard work of this year’s Arbor Day Award winners enrich our public commons and inspire future generations of environmental advocates,” John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation, said in the statement. “Dr. Barnes ought to take pride in being part of such an accomplished group.”

More than 1,800 “significant” trees -- those having a trunk diameter of 4 inches or more when they’re put into the ground -- have been planted on the Macon campus, Sims said. The trees include high­tower oaks, Southern sugar maples, sourwoods, black gums and bur oaks.

The campus gardens are themed and include a 40-acre longleaf pine forest, a garden designed to showcase fall leaf color that includes plenty of maple varieties, as well as a “tea garden” where leaves can be picked for tea preparation.

“This (Middle Georgia State College) community is investing in re-leafing,” Sims said. “We work on nurturing those trees, and we still have plans to plant more.”

Barnes, in his late 80s, said by phone Tuesday that he’s proud of the award and proud of the gardens that bear his name.

Next up for the gardens? A grove of olive trees.

“That’s another one of Dr. Barnes’ great ideas,” Sims said. “We’re going to give it a try.”

To learn more about all 14 of this year’s Arbor Day Foundation winners, go to www.arborday.org.

To contact writer Andy M. Drury, call 744-4477.

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