Journalist: Martin Smit
Photographer: Abby Johnson and Nate Tschaenn
With a documented history stretching back to 1681, when William Penn released the property to Thomas Minshall, the Tyler Arboretum has a rich legacy. Since 1944 when Laura Tyler donated the property to be developed as an arboretum, in memory of her husband, the Tyler Arboretum has slowly evolved and grown as an organization. With rich plant collections, notably due to the work of the Painter brothers and the first director Dr. John Wister, combined with large natural areas, Tyler has always been an inspirational setting. In the last few decades, Tyler has become focused on sharing these wonderful resources with the community. In its own words, the Tyler Arboretum wants to “stimulate stewardship and understanding of our wonderful natural world.”
The current Executive Director, Mr. Rick Colbert, welcomed First Year Fellows and discussed the Arboretum’s more recent history. It was interesting to learn about Tyler’s process of drawing up a master plan in 1996, a groundbreaking step in the field of public horticulture at the time. It was interesting to see how this document was put into practice and how, partly because of it, the organization has experienced significant growth during the last decade. Mr. Colbert also pointed out how continuous long term planning is an essential part of the Tyler Arboretum’s successful management and that the organization regularly updates the master plan. He also explained how various efforts were being put into growing the Arboretum’s endowment to ensure the organization’s future, a crucial step in these uncertain financial times.
Ms. Betsey Ney, Director of Public Programs, guided First Year Fellows through the Arboretum and pointed out how new developments are aimed at making it more accessible to visitors. Hopefully, future visitors will also be drawn into some wonderful, previously hidden, areas of the Arboretum. The Tyler Arboretum offers a diverse range of activities but is especially focused on engaging families and children. Tyler has made a concerted effort to align the educational programs for children with school curriculums, which has led to Tyler becoming an ever more popular destination for regional schools. Enhanced programming has also increased family visitation, as well as improved membership growth in recent years.
With exhibits such as playful tree houses, various quirky sculptures, the butterfly house, amazing landscapes and natural areas, it is easy to see why this Arboretum has become such a popular regional destination. With its strong institutional leadership it is sure to continue its important role in the region for the years to come.