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600+ UNM students help garden during 'Greek Week.'

BioPark Goes Greek on Saturday

A grand cottonwood grows next to an existing path that will be part of the new Cottonwood Gallery. Photo courtesy of Amy Landers/ABQ BioPark.

On Feb. 16, more than 600 fraternity and sorority volunteers from the University of New Mexico will gather to clean up five acres at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden. The area is being restored for a new garden, the Cottonwood Gallery, featuring an enhanced bosque habitat with native plants and scheduled to open this summer. The generous volunteer assistance is part of Greek Week, an annual week-long focus on philanthropy for UNM sororities and fraternities.

Students will work in four hour shifts to pick up debris, rake and clean the future Cottonwood Gallery. The Botanic Garden staff has been working for several months to clean up the area, which once hosted San Gabriel Park and is still littered with trash. The sweep of Greek students through the area will complete the clean-up phase of the Cottonwood Gallery restoration.

"Our members are excited for the opportunity to better the community, especially in a location that has space for our hundreds of Greek members," said Damon Hudson, Chairman for UNM Greek Week. "Volunteering better rounds our members with stronger perspectives about the world around them and invigorates them to continue volunteering in their postgraduate lives."

The ABQ BioPark's participation in Greek Week began in 2007 with a small group of students, and grew quickly with more students volunteering each year. Today, the BioPark day of Greek Week attracts an average of 600-700 volunteers. Students volunteer their time and energy and sometimes donate funds to support the BioPark. Greeks also volunteer and raise support for other charities in the community during Greek Week.

"Community service is important to UNM fraternity and sorority members because we can make an impact in our community and take those experiences into our future careers," said Amelia Linde, Community Service Coordinator for UNM Greek Week. "The experiences and memories gained by our members when they were children at the BioPark still impact them today. We hope our many helping hands can help improve the BioPark, so it may be enjoyed for generations to come."

The Cottonwood Gallery is part of the original vision for the Botanic Garden, developed in the 1990s. A path from the old-time Heritage Farm will lead to the five-acre site at the north end of the facility. The garden will be an enhanced bosque habitat with the existing cottonwood canopy over plantings of native understory trees and bushes. Plans include wetland areas, signage and paths with bird blinds, which will provide quiet places to watch for the abundant native wildlife including roadrunners, kestrels, porcupines, and great-horned owls. For more information, email [email protected] or dial 311 locally (505-768-2000).

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