Photo and story by Ethan Clark / Contributing Writer
Scores of Murfreesboro residents gathered at the Stones River National Battlefield Saturday to participate in the nationwide Public Lands Day.
Public Lands Day, which was founded more than twenty years ago, encourages members of the local community to spend a morning cleaning up parks and battlefields. At the battlefield, volunteers were organized into groups to tackle specific tasks.
“(People do) everything from trash pick to killing invasive exotic plants and building fence,” said Jim Lewis, the chief ranger of Stones River National Battlefield. “Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle are two plants that Lewis said he and his team spent a lot of time removing at the battlefield.”
According to Lewis, the first Public Lands Day at the Battlefield was held fifteen years ago, and it has been growing every year. Lewis estimated this year’s turnout to be over 150 people.
Stones River’s Public Lands Day is sponsored by Friends of Stones River, a nonprofit organization that provided food and supplies for Saturday’s volunteers.
“We’ve been participating at Stones River ever since the beginning,” said Gib Backlund, a Friends of Stones River board member. “Over the years, these volunteer projects have built miles of fence and cleared acres and acres of invasive exotic plants. So, (it has) been a really productive event for us.”
Lewis encouraged more people to participate in future Public Lands Day events in Murfreesboro and beyond.
“When you actually put some sweat equity into your local park, there’s probably no better way to really connect to the resource than to actually get your hands in it,” Lewis said. “I think people come away from these things feeling that way.”
National Public Lands Day occurs on the last Saturday of every September. A similar event will be held next year during National Park Week from April 21 to 29. Volunteer and internship opportunities are listed on Stones River National Battlefield’s website.
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