A cocktail party and presentation looking ahead at the possibilities for the Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Gardens concluded with a major announcement on its expansion.
“We have another big announcement to make, and hang on to your hats because it’s a doozy,” Arboretum Executive Director Dana Doody said at the event held at WJCT. “If you’ve been following the Arboretum, you know that we are striving to become a botanical garden, in line with the vision that Mary Pat (Matheson) is bridging to life in Atlanta (at the Atlanta Botanical Garden).”
Matheson, President and CEO of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, spoke to Arboretum supporters at the event, detailing the expansion and new directions taken in making the Atlanta Botanical Garden a jewel and urban oasis for the Georgia capital. As the Atlanta garden worked to bring in children and families, the Arboretum is planning a new section devoted to kids.
“We here at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are thrilled to announce that we’ve received a challenge grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund for $50,000,” Doody said.
“That means if we raise $50,000, Mrs. Weaver’s foundation will match it dollar-to-dollar, giving us $100,000. This gift, once earned on our part, will (provide the money) needed to start our children’s garden.”
It’s a significant effort for the Arboretum as outdoor locations and event spaces take advantage of the ongoing increase in activity over the months and years following the coronavirus lockdowns.
“The communities we live in want to be outdoors,” Matheson said. “Your children want to be outdoors, and your grandchildren do too. It’s on us to make sure they do, because they will be healthier … people, and they will be better stewards because of the work that you do…. It’s a great time to be in this field.”
The Arboretum’s grown to 130,000 annual visitors, including more than 29,000 children, some of those coming on 15 field trips over the past year. More than 21,800 dogs joined their owners on visits to the Arboretum as well.
Its most recent additions include the Fernery, an addition to the Palm Garden that includes a variety of ferns and other garden-worthy plants, and the Lake Loop trail. The trail’s intended to provide a way to make it easier for people with mobility issues to take advantage of what the Arboretum has to offer.