Mount Pisgah Arboretum has grown into a local treasure.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has" - Margaret Mead.
In his Jan. 3 guest viewpoint, Theodore Palmer reminded us of the vision that helped persuade Oregon Gov. Tom McCall that the state should purchase the Mount Pisgah area in 1973, leading to the creation of Mount Pisgah Arboretum.
Professor Palmer is right to be proud that "from this acorn, the mighty oak of Mount Pisgah Arboretum is still growing." He described the roots of this precious public resource, a history that is important to cherish and remember always. As the arboretum turns 45, it's wonderful to see how beautifully it has grown since its founding, and to look toward its bright future.
Today the arboretum's 209 acres help us find our place in nature, in the heart of the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area, through recreation, education, community involvement and stewardship of our area's unique natural habitats. Our philosophy is that the more opportunities people have to learn about and care for the natural world, the more they will honor and preserve it for future generations.
It is heartening to see how the community has responded. On a visit to Mount Pisgah Arboretum today, you might encounter second-graders discovering their first rough-skinned newt with one of our volunteer nature guides, college students restoring habitat in our creek, a local expert leading a group walk to find lichens and mosses, birdwatchers exploring our oak savannahs, volunteers working together to resurface a trail, and visitors pausing to rest and reflect on a memorial bench.
Currently, the arboretum receives about 400,000 visits a year. Five hundred volunteers help care for habitats, trails and public facilities. Volunteers also put on community events and lead field trips for some 3,000 elementary school students each year. The Arboretum sponsors many of these children who come from low-income families. Nearly 1,000 adults attend regular guided nature walks and workshops, and about 6,000 flock to our annual spring Wildflower Festival and our fall Mushroom Festival.
Mount Pisgah Arboretum is in the midst of building eight interactive exhibits. Each dynamic new installation is being designed to engage the imagination and provoke exploration of southern Willamette Valley ecology for both children and adult visitors. The wetlands and incense cedar exhibits have been completed. Work on the oak woodlands exhibit will be finished this month. Exhibits featuring riparian forest, oak savannah, prairie, Douglas fir and transitional forest areas will be completed over the next few years. All of this is possible because of the generosity of the Arboretum's nearly 2,000 members and donors.
When Palmer and his colleagues set out to change the world by planting trees on the original 118-acre parcel that launched the arboretum we know today, they set in motion a priceless gift to future generations. Since then, plans have evolved, but everything we treasure today had its beginnings with a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens.
We are forever grateful to them, as we look to inspire new generations to engage with nature in this ever-changing world.
Lann Leslie of Eugene is an attorney who joined the Mount Pisgah Arboretum board of directors in 2012 and has been its president since 2014.