From the Director’s Desk: Managing the Landis Arboretum During a Global Pandemic

By Fred Breglia

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.

Fall 2020

Volume 38 , Number 3

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