Update on the Implementation of the Washington Park Arboretum Master Plan



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Update on Implementation of the Washington Park Arboretum

Master Plan
Presentation to Board of Regents

September 18, 2008
B. Bruce Bare, Dean and Professor, College of Forest Resources
Tim Gallagher, Superintendent of Parks & Recreation, City of Seattle
Barbara Wright, President, Arboretum Foundation



  • Introduction of panel and guests.




  • In May 2001, the Seattle City Council and the University of Washington Board of Regents adopted the Master Plan (MP) for the Washington Park Arboretum (WPA) entitled, “Renewing the WPA”. The MP consisted of a series of proposed projects and programmatic enhancements aimed at achieving four goals related to: 1) education, 2) conservation, 3) recreation and 4) general issues. Our purpose today is to provide you with a brief update on progress we have made in implementing the new plan.




  • Before we get into the details of our implementation progress, I wish to provide a little historical background about the arboretum. It was established 74 years ago (1934) when the City, which owns most of the land area (now totaling about 230 acres), granted the University a license to use as much of Washington Park as needed for the purpose of developing and managing an arboretum and botanical garden. Today, the collections contain over 4,400 species and cultivated varieties of a diverse set of trees and shrubs.




  • Working together in partnership - the City, through the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, continues to maintain the grounds and park-like features, the buildings and the associated infrastructure in WPA while the University, through the College of Forest Resources, and its UW Botanic Gardens, owns and maintains the plant collections and is responsible for the outreach and educational programs within the Arboretum. In addition, the City maintains and operates the Japanese Garden which was developed during the 1960’s and is also located within the WPA.

  • The Arboretum Foundation, established in 1935, is a major fund raising organization created to raise private funds in support of the University’s plant collections and its educational mission; to organize volunteers and to be an advocate for the Arboretum on a variety of public issues affecting the WPA.




  • The Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee, also established in the 1930’s, consists of three members from the University, three from the City, two from the Arboretum Foundation and one from the Governor’s Office. This latter appointment reflects the fact that, in 1995, the Arboretum was designated as an official arboretum of the State of Washington.




  • The Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee is an advisory group that provides oversight and direction to the operation of the Arboretum and serves to coordinate and resolve issues that arise among the three parties. The ABGC is also the principal entity that makes implementation decisions regarding the scope, budget, scheduling and management of projects within the MP.




  • In 1978, a master plan was developed which focused on issues of facilities (visitor center), traffic (parking lots) and pedestrian circulation (new trails). This planning effort also recognized that a series of budget cuts had led to the deterioration of the park and its facilities. In 1980, the University created the CUH at Union Bay, which became the focal point of the University’s efforts including new physical facilities, programs and staff for managing its collections and educational programs in the Arboretum. In 1985, the Arboretum Foundation raised private funds, constructed and gifted to the City the Donald Graham Visitors Center – located in the WPA.




  • In the mid-1990’s an update to the existing MP was deemed necessary to develop a long-term strategic vision for the WPA. Largely funded by private funds raised by the Arboretum Foundation, the plan was completed in 2001 when it was approved by the UW Regents and the Seattle City Council and Mayor.




  • As stated earlier (and shown on page 2-3 under Tab F-13), the new MP addresses four goals: education, conservation, recreation and some general issues related to fund raising, advocacy for the Arboretum, fiscal sustainability and a healthy Arboretum Foundation. In 2001, the estimated cost was of MP implementation was $60 million and it was expected to take over 20 years to complete.




  • In 2004, the two managing partners and the Arboretum Foundation agreed to work together to implement the MP by identifying and prioritizing 30 separate projects: 11 were high priority; 10 medium priority and 9 lower priority for future consideration. A brief summary of the projects undertaken to date is shown on page 3 of your handout materials (Tab F-13).




  • Duck Bay Shoreline - $1.23 M using Seattle Shoreline Park Improvement Funds




  • Interpretive and Wayfinding Plan - $135k UW funds




  • Irrigation Mainline Project - $1 M using ProParks Levy Funds




  • Phase I of the Pacific Connections Gardens involves 14 acres near the south end of the WPA - $2.7M using $500k from ProParks Levy Funds, $50k UW funds, and $2.2 M using funds raised by the Arboretum Foundation.




  • Dedication of Phase I takes place this Saturday, September 20 with a ribbon cutting at 11:30 involving Mayor Nickels and Provost Wise plus many other activities occurring from 11:00 – 3:00 pm. When completed, this garden will consist of five eco-geographic collections focusing on new plant collections from he Pacific Rim countries of SE Australia, NZ, central Chile, Cascadia and East Asia/China. In Phase I we have been able to develop an open walled interpretive center, signage, new pathways and stone stairways connecting the paths, a grass meadow and preview gardens for the five eco-geographic regions.




  • Phase II of the PC Gardens is under development and is estimated to cost $2.24 M and be completed in 2013. It consists of completing the Cascadia and NZ collections and a portion of the Chilean collection. Phase III will concentrate on completion of the Chilean collection along with the SE Australia and China collections. Phase III is projected to be completed around 2023 and no cost estimate is available.




  • Japanese Garden Entry - $1.8 M using $1 M of funds raised by the Arboretum Foundation and $800k from City Parks.




  • Issues Affecting MP Implementation and Arboretum Management




    • Funding for maintenance & operations of existing garden collections. We need 18 additional FTE staff now to meet national standards (horticultural, curatorial and fiscal staff) at an estimated cost of $956k/year. Plus, an additional 7 FTE staff for our educational program ($375k/year). We currently employ 11.5 FTE staff in these areas at an annual cost (incl. benefits) of about $550k.

    • As stated in the MP Implementation Plan, new gardens and collections should not be created unless they can be maintained. However, finding private sources of support for maintenance of new collections is proving to be a challenging task. When the MP is completed, our staffing needs in the WPA will exceed 70 FTE staff for a total annual cost of around $4 MM.

    • As outlined in the MP, we need to renovate the GVC; construct two new facilities for curatorial and educational activities near the GVC; replace the greenhouses; build four additional outdoor education shelters; a visitor center near the south end of the Arboretum; and expand the maintenance and operations buildings.

    • Expansion of SR 520 has the potential to greatly and adversely impact the Arboretum from both an ecological and culture as well as physical (sound and sight) points of view. Given the geographical layout of the UW Botanic Gardens, it is desirable that we be able to reconnect the north and south extensions through use of a lid over the new SR 520 roadway.

    • Finding innovative ways to marshal our fund raising resources to secure the funds needed for maintenance of existing and new collections and facilities is our highest priority – and is ultimately required for the success of the Arboretum.



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