Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of many parks, arboreta, and botanical gardens. But despite – or maybe because of – the difficult times, the Landis Arboretum chose to keep its grounds open to the public, free of charge.
There are many scientifically proven health benefits of outdoor places, and given the current health crisis, we felt it was important to offer a natural way to relieve stress. With miles of hiking trails, social distancing was pretty easy.
In the midst of this global pandemic, a new awareness of the value of arboreta and other green spaces has been growing. When most daily routines came to a halt this spring, more and more people were seeking out Landis, not only on the weekends but also in the middle of the week. We saw more people than ever using the outdoor space not only for hiking, but also as an art studio, a performance space, and an outdoor classroom.
While the number of our visitors has increased, managing the Landis Arboretum has been very challenging. Our 2020 calendar was packed with events including outdoor education programs, workshops, and concerts. Landis had to cancel or postpone most of the scheduled programs. This included our annual Spring Plant Sale, which is a major income source for Landis. We weren’t sure what was going to happen.
The Landis Board and I met regularly but virtually to discuss our strategy to minimize the financial impact on the Arboretum. We took advantage of an online fundraising campaign, #GivingTuesday2. Our supporters donated generously in spite of their own economic uncertainties, surpassing our expectations. In addition, to continue our mission of nature education, Landis educators have been conducting virtual programs on Facebook Live and other platforms at no cost. Our Full Moon Concert series has been free of charge and entirely virtual this year.
While adhering to the recommended health guidelines, Landis continued the maintenance and upgrading of the facilities with the help of dedicated trustees, volunteers, and members who gave their time and money to help. I’m proud to say we have completed the Emergency Shelter, as well as a good part of the infrastructure at the Meditation Garden. We also planted many new trees this season and will continue to plant more through the fall.
In August, we launched an ambitious and successfully social-distanced 5K under the direction of David Roy, the race coordinator. Using all-online registrations and staggered heats and start times, this community event was a welcome one for sure.
In mid-September, we were able to hold our Fall Plant Sale, again following safety precautions. Our gardening friends could not have been happier!
Yes, 2020 has certainly been a challenging and often stressful year. We have suffered financial losses, but certainly we gained more in the loyalty and support of our members and friends.