A group of volunteers with a specific set of skills took to the outdoors around the University Center of Southern Oklahoma on Thursday.
Students with the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program, a statewide program for agriculture professionals ages 25 and older, helped plant trees, landscape and plan ahead for pathways through the trees around UCSO. The 18-month program covers a wide variety of agriculture topics from different angles, from farming to production to national and state government.
Program Director Edmond Bonjour said the group does multiple service projects, like the one at UCSO, throughout the semester.
“Everytime we go to a different part of the state, we look at all different aspects of agriculture,” Bonjour said. “We try to expose them to a lot of different aspects so they become well rounded.”
One team split off to plant trees and flowers around the sign at the entrance from Mt. Washington Street. Another volunteered to haul large rocks onto the bank of a small pond near UCSO. Program participant Myriah Johnson, who works for the Noble Research Institute said there was a method to the madness.  
“When it gets to capacity, the bank isn’t really holding it,” Johnson said. “The water pressure is starting to cause that to erode and break, so you have washout and end up with a smaller pond, but then you also have soil erosion issues.”
UCSO interim president Peggy Maher led a third group through the somewhat soggy center grounds after an indoor planning session. They measured, planned ahead and marked potential pathways with flags. Maher said the idea is to plan ahead for a larger project.
“We want to connect from the trail that connects from Regional Park along Veterans [Boulevard],” Maher said. “We talked to Parks and Rec about… going from the middle school to up here.”
Maher said connecting Ardmore City Schools to UCSO with walking trails would be helpful to concurrent students, who are simultaneously enrolled in high school and the university center.
“There needs to be starting points and that’s what they’re looking for right now,” Maher said. “We want to take it through the trees because we think it would be very pleasant, even in summer in the Oklahoma heat.”
Maher said the trail might even expand farther north to connect with the Ardmore Institute of Health’s trails one day, but that would be a much more long-term project.
Paula Henley runs academic advisement for Murray State College and teaches a walking and jogging class at the university center. She said she currently holds the class at Planet Fitness, which hosts the classes free of charge.
“We were doing it out here but it’s not safe,” Henley said. “There’s cars, there’s no trails, there’s bumpy terrain. We’d love to be able to walk through, like at Regional Park.”