Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 4 (Fall 1974)
Bradley, Katharine T.
Point of inflection: the Arboretum, Madison's special green patch, pp. 28-29
The University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison is a mira- cle of preservation in the middle of a developing metropolitan area. A joint community and University enterprise from the beginning, it owes its existence to the dedicated efforts of a number of people whose names can be found in the area today: the Jackson Oak, the Olbrich Entrance, the Longenecker Horticulture Gardens, the Leopold Pines, McCaffrey Drive, the Curtis and Greene Prairies. Intended primarily as a teach- ing and research area for the Uni- versity's M a d i s o n campus, the Arboretum has become as well a favorite place for nature-lovers who enjoy walking its twenty-four miles of trails. The marsh near the famous Duck Pond offers the best birding in the city. As a result of this and of the diversity of its plantings, more than 180,000 peo- ple a year visit the area, and only about one percent of these are Uni- versity students in class situations, or are researchers in any of a dozen different fields of study. Because the Arboretum's use- fulness and management involve many distinct disciplines, its ad- ministration is handled by a Uni- versity A r b o r e t u m Committee which includes members from a number of departments on the Madison campus. The committee chairman is responsible not to a dean, but directly to the chancel- lor, who also appoints the commit- tee members. It is the committee's obligation to formulate policies for the Arboretum's operation and management, and to engage an Arboretum director whose function is the administration of the staff and the implementation of the committee's policies. As a result of the changing cir- cumstances surrounding the Arbo- retum over the years since its inception in the late 1 920s, the policies formulated by successive committees have had different em- phases at different times. In 1934, when the Arboretum was officially dedicated, it contained 500 acres of land. Today it has 1,240. It was then still "out in the sticks," and was regarded primarily as wild acreage-an "Arboretum and Wildlife Refuge"-dedicated to con- servation studies of every sort. It was at once remote and conven- iently accessible to University per- sonnel, and extensive research by important early figures like Aldo Leopold proceeded at that time. Its development as a collection of ecological communities represent- ative of those to be found in the state of Wisconsin received great impetus when John T. Curtis, plant ecologist, succeeded Leopold as research director in 1948. As a result, the Arboretum today offers great variety within a relatively small space, including too some sixty acres of horticultural displays. Partly because of this variety and partly because of its mid-city location, the Arboretum has ex- perienced increasingly heavy us- age by the Madison community for activities more commonly as- sociated with public parks. Prob- lems of gasoline availability also contribute to the steadily increas- ing number of visitors, especially in w i n t e r when snow on the ground now brings in hundreds of cross-country skiers every week. These increasing public pres- sures have made it necessary to introduce regulations governing public behavior and the use of the property. The Arboretum com- mittee's policy is to permit only those activities which are directly related to the Arboretum's unique qualities. Picnicking is not permit- ted, nor are activities of a purely recreational nature like kite-flying or frisbee-throwing. The public is welcome to walk in the areas. In fact, the deeds to many of the properties indicate that most of the Arboretum must always be open to the public. The enforcement of regulations needed to preserve the developing plant communities does require the presence of an Arboretum ranger whose job is to explain to the public the impor- tance of staying on the trails, or why the prohibition of picnicking and dogs matters, as well as to report to University security of- ficers any serious irregularities. We are lucky that most of our visitors want to protect the prop- erty as much as we do, and they are consequently receptive to re- quests to observe the rules. The Arboretum's operating budget has kept it a pauper among the arboreta of the world, but it has been the fortunate recipi- ent of many gifts, those received for the acquisition of property during its early days being gener- ally the largest. Gifts continue to come to it, and three important ones have been received this year. In order to support the Arbo- retum's program of guided tours and guide training, as well as the development of nature trails and guide services in other Dane Coun- ty natural areas, the Evjue Foun- Katharine T. Bradley is director of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. 28 N FLECTI U The Arboretum. Madisons Special Green Patch
Copyright 1974 by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.| For information on re-use, see http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/Copyright