UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Arboretum at Penn State has been recognized as one of three “Great Places in Pennsylvania for 2020” by the state chapter of the American Planning Association.
The group annually designates “Great Places” in its “Great Public Spaces Category.” Great Places have a sustainable vision for the future and serve as a model for other communities, according to a news release distributed by the association.
“The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association is proud to announce the designation of The Arboretum at Penn State in College Township, Centre County, as a 2020 Great Place in Pennsylvania,” the release stated. “Penn State’s trustees originally set aside 25 acres of land adjacent to University Park campus for the Arboretum in 1914. However, a master site plan was not completed until 1999, when the site had expanded to 370 acres.”
In honoring the Arboretum, the association noted that the planning process for the facility involved community input through a series of brainstorming sessions. And, it added, the Arboretum continues to evolve with planning and community involvement to maintain this local jewel as a showcase for preserving and caring for nature.
“Today, the Arboretum, which opened in 2009, preserves a rare remnant of old-growth oak-pine forest, protects the aquifer supplying most of the campus water needs, and boasts a variety of botanical gardens, wildlife sculptures, a children’s garden, a pollinator and bird garden, and a bike trail,” the association’s release stated.
“The property is easily accessible by residents of adjoining neighborhoods, as well as the University community, and is a popular destination for visitors. The Arboretum is home to a variety of festivals, exhibits and programs and serves as an attractive venue for many private gatherings.”
The Arboretum was nominated by Peggy Ekdahl, a member of the College Township Planning Commission, who believes it’s truly a great place that perfectly blends science and aesthetics.
“With its plantings, ponds, fountains, sculptures and specific exhibit areas, there truly is something for everyone of every age,” she said. “The reasons for visiting the facility are many, such as rest, relaxation, contemplation, exercise and education. The Arboretum at Penn State offers all of that for visitors of all ages and abilities. And it has unique offerings for each season — at no cost to visitors.”
The Arboretum is evolving constantly, Ekdahl added. No matter how many times one visits, there is something to see that you never noticed before, she said. “The Pollinator and Bird Garden, now under construction, is a prime example of the foresight and planning going on behind the scenes.”
Kim Steiner, director of the Arboretum and professor of forest biology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, said the University appreciates the recognition. He pointed out that the 3.25-acre Pollinator and Bird Garden will increase the size of the gardens by 60%. Major construction should be completed by late this year, with plant installation continuing into 2021.
Other Great Places for 2020 selected by the association included Allegheny Commons Park Northeast Fountain in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and Riverfront Park in Harrisburg, Dauphin County.
All three of the designated Great Places for 2020 demonstrate the excellent results that come from community partnerships, planning and dedication, the association stated in its release. “In recognizing the 2020 Great Places in Pennsylvania, the chapter also celebrates the many community leaders and officials, professionals, and residents who contribute to making the designated places ‘great.’”
–Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State University