Arboretum seeks funds for expansion, renovation

With new features, Landscape Arboretum officials want to draw 500,000 visitors annually.

Ethan Nelson

On Tuesday, the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum kicked off one of its largest public fundraising campaigns in the nearly 60 years since its opening.

The arboretum, which has already raised nearly $45 million from private donors since 2011, hopes to make an additional $15 million from public contributions to fund new renovations and attractions for visitors.

Projects in the works include a pollinator center, an expanded conservatory, a Chinese garden and new roads and walkways, said Judy Hohmann, the arboretum’s marketing director.

“We’re hoping the projects will create new venues for people to pursue learning or renewal or escape,” she said.

Nearly 328,000 people visited the arboretum last year, Hohmann said.

Already, the campaign-generated private funds have contributed to recently completed projects like expanding the arboretum’s entrance and creating a sculpture garden.

“By most measures, [the campaign] is already a success,” said Ed Schneider, the arboretum’s director and a professor in the department of horticultural science.

But the campaign isn’t done yet and won’t be complete until June 2016, he said.

“There’s still a lot to do,” Hohmann said.

The public phase of the fundraiser is designed to appeal to a wider audience and to bring new people to the arboretum, Schneider said.

One of the current projects, the Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center,will allow visitors to learn about new bee and butterfly research and ways they can help them thrive.

Marla Spivak, a University entomology professor, said the center will act as a companion building to the new Bee Lab on the St. Paul campus, a 10,000-square-foot facility that’s an upgrade from the current Bee Lab’s existing space.

The center will reflect current University environmental and agricultural research.

“People are really interested in bees,” Spivak said, “so it’s important to educate them.”

Much of the money for the center came from the family of Joe Tashjian, former chief of staff of Regions Hospital in St. Paul. The family gave $2 million for the future bee establishment.

“It seemed like the ideal combination to have a public space to show what Marla is doing in her research,” he said.

The bee center will be near the arboretum’s red barn on its eastern edge and the building will be the first step in developing that area into a garden, Tashjian said.

By the time the campaign is complete, Hohmann said, she hopes the arboretum will have 500,000 visitors per year.

And while the projects will help bring people to the arboretum and add new space, she said, preserving the outdoors is at the heart of the fundraising campaign.

“The arboretum plays an important role in terms of outreach and education,” Hohmann said, “but also it’s important to sustain a place where people can escape daily stresses as well as enjoy nature and the outdoors.”