APSU prepares for the annual “Plant the Campus Red” event, taking place as one of the many Earth Week events. Graphic by Anabelle Coker | THE ALL STATE.

Next week, an Austin Peay State University tradition continues starting in the MUC Plaza at 1:30 p.m.

Alongside various other events for Earth Week from April 15-22, APSU plans to “Plant the Campus Red” for the 25th year in a row on Thursday, April 18th. This event acts as both the anniversary of the recovery efforts from the infamous 1999 tornado that devastated the university and the surrounding community, as well as part of the campus’ partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation. As the name implies, the current recovery efforts entail planting a variety of flowers, trees and shrubbery in the school’s landscaping beds.

As one of the oldest traditions at APSU, this event will be open to the public— something the school has been rather intentional about this year.

“Since the original event was open to everyone in the community and the public had just as much of a part in getting campus back to where it needed to be after the tornado, I thought it would be fitting to invite them back for the 25th anniversary,” said APSU director of Landscape and Grounds, Wes Powell.

That original event started on Jan. 25, 1999, just three days after the 1999 tornado hit Clarksville and APSU. Under the name Operation Restoration, it aimed at bringing campus back to normal for students, staff and the community.

It was a difficult undertaking, and the process was long. The E3 tornado cost millions of dollars of damage, uprooting hundred-year-old trees, decimating 22 buildings on campus and knocking out electricity for much of the community. FEMA and the National Guard were dispatched to assess the damage and establish a restoration plan.

Like the reaction to the tornadoes this past December, the community and APSU were quick to aid helping hands wherever possible to help the recovery process. With the initial Operation Restoration, students were back in class by Jan. 28, 1999, though the restoration efforts continued for the years following.

Ever since, the university has hosted some form of Plant the Campus Red, as the event was officially titled by 2000, to celebrate the sense of community togetherness and the resilient APSU spirit.

“As we come together to plant these flowers and shrubs, we not only enhance the beauty of our campus, but we honor the legacy of those who helped rebuild Austin Peay,” said APSU President Mike Licari.

Today, this theme still echoes, alongside the goals of the Arbor Day Foundation and the Cumberland River Compact.

Last year, Plant the Campus Red and the campus’ Arbor Day celebrations were two separate events. The latter of which resulted in the planting of over 100 native trees on campus to improve local water quality and encourage general environmental awareness.

This year, the events will be one and the same, with volunteers— the Montgomery County Master Gardeners, APSU Community Engagement and Sustainability and the Cumberland Tree Service— coming together to form eleven planting groups across campus to add over 4,000 plants and a handful of trees spread out around APSU.

Powell and the rest of APSU Landscape and Grounds aim to bring as much color as possible to campus so that it can be enjoyed by everyone on and around the community— including visitors, graduates, students and staff.

One of the great things about this tradition is seeing how it evolves over time.

“Personally, I have helped plant trees on campus and get a real sense of accomplishment of seeing them grow over the years. It is a great way to build a relationship with our campus,” said Alexandra Wills, the director for community engagement and sustainability.

Those that volunteer at the event will be provided gardening gloves, commemorative T-shirts and free ice cream by APSU.

Plant the Campus Red will be one of many events going on next week for Earth Week. Other events will include sustainability tours on Monday, an eco nonprofit fair and environmental panel on Tuesday, a Patch n’ Mend event with the Sustainability Club on Wednesday, a GOV’s Dining Farmer’s Market on Thursday, the Land Between the Lakes Canoe River Cleanup the following Sunday and a CoSTEM Coffee event with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences on the next Monday.