By Torin Anderson ’18 and Sophia Warwick ’18
Gustavus Adolphus College’s Linnaeus Arboretum, or the “Arb” as students like to call it, is a well-maintained, diverse landscape that serves as a symbol for peace and serenity. Students are able to interact with the arboretum in many ways, fulfilling spiritual, social, and academic purposes. Students can be found venturing out to find places to meditate and relax, or to observe nature for a particular course they may be taking. The opportunities for academic research are endless, due to the fact that there are over 144 different types of trees and shrubs, together representing the three main ecosystems of Minnesota. Through these 125 acres, students of all ages are able to explore not only themselves, but the world around them.
The arboretum attracts not only students, but the public as well. Many of the citizens of Saint Peter, Mankato, and the surrounding towns love to drive up “on the hill” to see what the arboretum has to offer. This has led to many events being held at the Arb, including one of the biggest events of the fall, Nature, A Walking Play, which took place over Homecoming weekend. This play was designed to be extremely interactive, where the audience followed the professional actors from scene to scene for the entirety of the performance, therefore becoming immersed in the nature around them. This production was on tour throughout the Midwest, and performed at multiple campuses including through the University of Minnesota and Grinnell College. Over 400 people attended the Linnaeus Arboretum event and attendance was made up of people from students as well as residents of many communities in southern Minnesota.
Along with plays, the arboretum hosted its annual “Fall Fest.” This event attracted around 1,000 people from all over the community. Held over Family Weekend, this event aimed to promote family fun for all ages, including hay rides, live music, multiple crafts and activities, and lots of fall-themed treats. Additionally, Linnaeus Arboretum organized Halloween activities in a way that everyone could do something to their liking. For example, the Jack-O-Lantern Night Hike was open to the public and was an event where children and their families were encouraged to carve pumpkins and enjoy cider by the fire. The same evvening it went on to host a haunting “Arb Scare” event. This spooky hike attracted mostly high school and college students and encouraged them to test their fears and explore the “haunted forest.”
In addition to social events, the arboretum is also home to a variety of educational programs. Elementary schools have used the arboretum in a variety of different ways, including field trips and other educational activities. For Gustavus students, the arboretum serves as a research hub. A variety of courses use it for projects and hands-on experience through observations. Some classes, like Interpreting Landscapes, do not meet in a classroom, but instead use the arboretum as their meeting space.
There are many changes taking place in the arboretum. Director Scott Moeller has been working to facilitate a variety of updates to the infrastructure of the arboretum. Due to the concern over the invasive species growing around the perimeter of the arboretum (a threat to naturally-occurring vegetation), parts of the landscape have been in the process of being cut down, in hopes that indigenous nature will reclaim the space. Additionally, hikers will soon notice the new signs to be posted on the trails, a way to help those who are less familiar with the paths find their way around and learn more about the nature around them.
As for the future, Moeller has high hopes and expectations. The arboretum has acted as an interface between the surrounding community and the Gustavus community, and Moeller hopes this connection will continue to grow. He hopes that more collaboration will be available in the future to help strengthen the environmental educational opportunities open to students of all ages. “Environmental education is so important, and is only going to become more important as the future unfolds,” Moeller explained.
After a productive fall full of both educational and social opportunities, Moeller is excited for the spring, “You can’t help people be nature lovers without getting people out there. That may be all it takes to send someone down the path of environmental stewardship,” he said.
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin