Pulaski County Master Gardeners take top honors for 28-year effort at Pinnacle
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Oct. 10, 2018
- Pulaski County Master Gardener project features butterflies, native plants
- Popularity of park helps project achieve broad reach & impact
LITTLE ROCK – The Pulaski County Master Gardener’s long-term project at Pinnacle Mountain State Park has nabbed one of the state’s top honors, the 2018 Master Gardener Project of the Year among counties with 51 members or more.
The project, which began in 1990, has served to both beautify the park, located at the northwestern reaches of Little Rock, as well as educate visitors and the staff at Pinnacle Mountain, said Melody Parsley, former chair of the Pulaski County Master Gardeners.
“Master Gardeners are only there twice a month, but the park staff get questions every day,” Parsley said. “Our primary goal with the project was to highlight Arkansas native plants.
“Our other goal, of course, was to educate the staff so that they can answer questions when we’re not there, as well as to educate our Master Gardeners themselves,” she said. “So it’s a multifaceted project that I think is somewhat unique in Arkansas.”
Parsley was chairman of the Pulaski County organization in 2017, when the application for the 2018 Project of the Year was submitted. She rotated out of the position in January, 2018.
County 76 is the Master Gardener organization that unites Master Gardener organizations throughout Arkansas. Within the organization, the Triple R Committee — which focuses on recruitment, retention and recognition of Master Gardeners throughout Arkansas — manages nominations for eight state-level awards each year.
Debbie Howell, County 76 Triple R project chair, said the committee currently has 19 members. After nominations are collected from organizations throughout the state each year, committee members review the submissions to ensure they have met all relevant criteria; if a submission is missing anything, the committee contacts the submitting organization. If not, it is forwarded on to out-of-state judges, who review the submissions anonymously.
“The judges are typically directors of Master Gardener programs in other states,” Howell said. “This year, we had judges in Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.”
Entries are judges according to a point system, and the winners are determined strictly according to that system, Howell said.
According to the application Parsley submitted to County 76, the project began in 1990, as a butterfly and hummingbird demonstration garden featuring available native plants.
Ironically, native plants were something of a rare commodity in local nurseries when the project first began. Over the life of the project, members of the Pulaski County club obtained plants and seeds from private gardens and approved park specimens.
The project eventually evolved into seven separate garden beds, covering more than 3,900 square feet, with more than 110 species native to Arkansas represented throughout. The project also involves an extensive irrigation system, which members of the Pulaski County project designed, installed and maintained.
Twenty-seven members of the Pulaski County Master Gardeners have participated in the project in 2017; they and other members have contributed hundreds of volunteer hours every year since the project’s inception, including nearly 690 in 2016, and nearly 725 hours in the first seven months of 2017 alone, when the application was submitted for review.
The impact of the project are believed to be substantial, given the number of recorded visitors to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, which averages about 191 visitors each day. The project includes a comprehensive plant labeling system, an ongoing photo album of current specimens on display and more.
To learn about the Arkansas Master Gardener Program, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/master-gardeners/.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
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Media Contact: Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service