GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A major land restoration project in Gulfport got a helping hand on Thursday from some college students who traveled more than a thousand miles to take part.
When students from Hamilton College made the two-day trip from upstate New York to the Gulf Coast, they made sure to pack a green thumb and a heart to serve.
The 11 students spent Thursday planting trees in Gulfport as part of their last week of winter break spent lending a hand in a number of service projects along the Coast.
“I’m not a person who likes to stand still and do nothing. I like to get out there and help people, and it really feels good to get out there and make a difference," said student Benny Westcott.
The group planted 120 longleaf pines, a learning experience for all involved.
“I did a community trip in Kentucky a number of years ago, and we did a little bit of tree planting, but not like this, from the beginning of digging a hole to planting the actual tree itself," said Abigail Rosovsky, a student leader for the group.
Their efforts are part of a larger ongoing project by the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain to restore the land around Turkey Creek. Between now and March, they’ll plant 8,500 trees with the help of crews from Climb CDC.
“The overall goal is to put it back the way it was. Natural native wetland savannahs and bottomland hardwoods," said environmental scientist Jim Kelly.
Kelly works closely with this project, which has many goals, including decreasing future flooding in the area.
“Turkey Creek has been pretty heavily impacted quite honestly, and it needs some help,” Kelly said. “What we’re doing now I think is pretty critical to the health of the whole ecosystem here in this watershed.”
The students are proud to do their part to help the environment and leave their mark.
“We’re coming in for only a week, but I hope that the work that we do can influence others and excite the community," Rosovsky said.
The students have also volunteered this week at a Boys and Girls Club and the new head start program in Gulfport.