Lots of productive meetings
I ended my last blog talking about reaching out to people for advice, and attempting to see how they value the arboretum. The first three people I met with were Greg Doerschler, Jim Collins, and Rich Miller.
Greg is the Senior Analyst for Clark and faculty adviser for the Outing Club. We talked about HASTREES, the Arboretum, and education. He currently values the Arboretum for it’s tranquility. He enjoys walking there and having lunch. It gives him a place to get away from work and the urban environment. He likes it but he thinks the space can be made much better. Greg and I also discussed the role of HASTREES, the Arboretum advocacy club. One of the two really important pieces of advice I got from him was that I should figure out how I should make sure that the HASTREES continues to function properly and play a rolein making the Arboretum great. It’s a club that could expand its responsibilities and improve its effectiveness. The second thing he said was that I should look into seeing how other departments can use the Arborertum. O.B. Hadwen said in his will that the land he bequeathed to Clark should be preserved for education and scientific purposes. In the past biology and botany have been the only educational departments that used the Hadwen Arboretum. As the plant science disciplines at Clark got smaller, the focus on the Arboretum shrank. This having been said, Greg pointed out that the Art department could use the area, potentially utilizing it for plays, poetry readings, music, drawing, and other activities. Furthermore, the Athletics department has used this space for running and we can capitalize on that utilization.
Another person I met with was Jim Collins. He is the University Vice president and CFO. He has been a major decision maker at Clark for about 30 years, and he runs the financial side of the University. He is the key for figuring out what the university leadership has felt about the Arboretum for the last few decades. I met with him at his office on the 2nd floor of the Geography building. We discussed the relationship between the Arboretum and the University administration. I had previously believed that the main reason that Clark had not sold the Arboretum was because students and community wanted to keep it. What I learned instead was a lot simpler and somehow sadder. It turned out that Clark declined to sell the space not because of the opinions of students, faulty, or community; but because they couldn’t find anyone who would buy it. As I mentioned before, part of the Arboretum is deed-restricted (Hadwen will said it will only be able to be used as arboretum) and another section is also debatably deed-restricted (did Hadwen’s daughter have the right to give her section of land without the deed restrictions her dad gave?). These deed-restrictions are a huge turn off for developers and they render the land unsellable. Mr. Collins also said that in the 80’s the administration tried to sell the Arboretum to the Worcester Country Horticulture Society, but they were turned down. WCHS instead acquired Tower Hill, which is about 107 acres bigger than our arboretum. Mr. Collins told me it would have been nice for the community to have WCHS here, but they would not have been able to enact the scale of development they did at Tower Hill. The University also thought of building a graduate department building or housing there, but the administration decided that it was too far from the main campus and instead preferred the concept of having all students in one place. The administration ultimately decided to leave the Arboretum as a woodlot, a loosely regulated forest reserved for recreation use and small-scale production. From the viewpoint of a financially-oriented administrator, Hadwen’s gift is more of a burden because of its odd shape, odd placement, and deed restrictions.
The last person I met with this week was the Friends of Newton Hill founder and president, Rich Miller. Friends of Newton Hill is a community group that is dedicated to the preservation of Newton Hill, a section of Elm Park. Ten years ago, Newton Hill was a drug infested, crime ridden, trash filled embarrassment of a park. Miller started with a small group of neighbors to clean up and call the police to take care of crime. He developed a positive relationship with a lot of people (including police, neighbors, and schools), gathering volunteers to work in the park. He also told me that providing positive activities and energy is the greatest way to combat negative energy and activities. Today, Newton Hill hosts music shows, has a Frisbee golf course, and proves a fun, safe green space. To me, Newton Hill is a success story for how to rejuvenate an open space and should be closely looked at. Additionally, Miller told me about the East-West trail. This is an urban walk that is planned to connect Worcester’s major green spaces and parks. It would be similar to the historical walk in Boston, but instead connecting natural open spaces. Newton Hill is one park planned to be part of the East –West trail, and Rick thinks that Hadwen Arboretum might benefit from being linked into this path.
My first three meetings were a large success. I was really worried about meeting strangers to ask for help. However, I decided to take the plunge and so far I am happy about how well things have gone. I realized that most people like to help and give advice. It also probably doesn’t hurt that I am a student and my cause is a good one. I have planned another few meetings for next week and feel more confident about it.