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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


Page 28


  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


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