The UC Davis Arboretum will soon be getting a facelift intended to improve visitor experience, thanks to a federal grant from Museums for America.
The $150,000 grant will go toward building a trail through the arboretum’s prestigious oak collection, expanding educational programs and improving resources for researchers.
“This is great,” said Diane Cary, director of communications for the arboretum. “We’ve been wanting to do this work for a long time now, and with all the cutbacks on campus we haven’t had the resources to engage in any of these projects.”
The grant is awarded to eight botanical facilities across the nation on an annual basis and is part of the National Institute for Museum and Library Services.
“We had a really strong application because of our unique oak collection,” Cary said.
The oak collection – home to almost 100 different species of oaks and over 400 trees altogether – will be made more accessible to the public with the addition of the Oak Discovery Trail. The trail will run through the 15-acre grove and feature paths, benches, plant labels and interpretive signage similar to the redwood grove, according to the grant proposal.
“It kind of feels more like a forest right now,” said Emily Griswald, assistant director of horticulture at the arboretum. “I think to some extent that scares people away from it. Our goal here is to make it a more visitor-friendly place and I think the walkway will encourage more people to come and see [the] arboretum.”
The improvements are scheduled to begin in early November and are expected to take approximately two years to complete.
Other planned aesthetic improvements to the arboretum include the creation of a large-scale ceramic mural depicting insect interaction with the oak grove.
“I think that this is a pretty good opportunity for students interested in participating in the creation of a permanent work of art that would become part of the grove,” Griswald said.
The mural will be designed by UCD students enrolled in courses in the art/science fusion program, specifically entomology 1, but will also be done in collaboration with the local community.
Community involvement in the mural project, specifically from local kindergarten through 12th graders, is one of many planned educational program expansions. Other additions will include the science cafe, a series of informal presentations by UCD scientists on current topics of interest, guided tours and upon completion of the project, a Family Oak Day.
The grant will also allow arboretum administrators to increase record keeping and documentation to aid researchers in their scientific analyses of the many unique oak specimens contained within the arboretum.
“This will be a great resource to researchers,” Griswald said. “Some trees in our plant collection are not found in any other collection in the county. We have an unusually diverse collection of oaks.
CHARLES HINRIKSSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.