When the stress of the school year starts to build, many students turn to the University of Idaho”s New Arboretum to unwind, take a stroll and enjoy the beauty of nature.
It”s a beauty that doesn”t go unappreciated, either.
This year, UI”s New Arboretum was listed on the Best College Reviews” 50 most beautiful college arboretums.
Paul Warnick, the arboretum horticulturalist and superintendent, said the university began planning for the new arboretum in 1982.
While the arboretum began to take shape in the late “90s, Warnick said a committee of professors first came up with the idea decades before as a means of increasing plant diversity on campus.
“Back in the “70s there was a group of professors that got together from various colleges and they … had a committee,” Warnick said.
“Their concern at that time was there wasn”t enough plant diversity on campus – their solution was let”s make a new arboretum.”
Warnick said now, there are over 15,000 documented plants and 2,500 different species of plants in the new arboretum.
Warnick said he is the only full-time employee for both the new and old arboretums, and said he largely manages the arboretums on his own.
“I”m pretty much left to my own devices to do whatever needs done,” Warnick said.
There are also UI students who help work in the arboretums part-time, he said.
“I have been amazingly fortunate in the 15 years I”ve been here to have really good help,” Warnick said. “I”ve never had to start completely from scratch. I”ve always had at least one person come back.”
Warnick said both the new and old arboretum undergo maintenance, but the new one is given a lot more work.
“The new arboretum requires a huge amount of maintenance – one of our big tasks, somewhat unfortunately maybe, is turf maintenance,” Warnick said. “We mow about 30 acres of grass “¦ it takes somewhere between 30 to 40 hours a week to mow the grass.”
Aside from path clearing, the old arboretum requires very minimal maintenance, said Warnick.
Warnick said while some might think of the arboretum as a large park, it”s more complicated than that.
“One of the things I think differentiates an arboretum from a park is that theoretically the plants in an arboretum should be documented to keep track of where they came from,” Warnick said.
Warnick said he”s happy students appreciate the arboretum, and he views it as a gift to the entire campus.
“I think what really is remarkable about our arboretum is that all of it is essentially a gift to the university,” Warnick said.
Alex Brizee can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @alex_brizee