Recently I accepted a new position at UAF and in so doing changed from the Tanana District agriculture and horticulture Extension agent to the state horticulture specialist and the faculty advisor for the Georgeson Botanical Garden. I will continue many of the Extension agent tasks until a new person is hired.
One of the big perks of the new position is getting to work at the botanical garden. Pat Holloway spent most of her amazing career creating and building up the garden, conducting world-class research, discovering that Alaska can be a player in the international market for peonies and educating thousands of people about which plants grow in Fairbanks and how to grow them. The garden has structures for events and gatherings. There are a multitude of nooks and crannies throughout the garden where one can find solitude, beauty and relaxation. There are places for children to explore and learn. There is so much potential at the garden, and we are excited to find creative solutions to build upon this strong base.
However, there are some challenges to face as well. We are all aware of the huge budget cuts in Alaska. Just a few years ago, there were four full-time people at the garden. Now there is one full-time garden manager, a part-time administrative assistant and me, the faculty advisor. So how do we make up for the lack of university employees? We do it with grants for research and education that pay for graduate students and summer hires. I am working with others on several grant proposals that will provide for research on a variety of topics as well as outreach.
We also do it with the donations you give when you enter the garden. We do it by expanding endowments and other types of donations. For example, we already have generous support from the Beistline, Ohlson, Risse and Babula families, organizations, clubs and so many people who are volunteering their time and resources helping us to maintain or create new garden beds.
And we do it by charging for events. I am meeting with organizations, the Georgeson Botanical Garden Society, other faculty and interested individuals to determine how best we can work together to improve and enjoy the benefits of this amazing resource. Our team will be putting into place policies and plans that should result in a return of previously suspended events and activities at the garden. We are determined to open the botanical garden back up to these events, but the fees will need to increase.
Most importantly for me, we will be restarting research trials and installing some fences to protect the research plots. We will be hosting workshops, tours, and educational events, although these endeavors will build slowly. We hope that we can continue to attract volunteers to help us with the work, to adopt or create new garden plots and features and to be docents to answer visitors’ questions.
Feel free to contact me with new ideas for supporting and improving the Georgeson Botanical Garden. And feel free to join me in my walks through this amazing place. A bit of heaven, really.
Steven Seefeldt is the state horticulture specialist for the Georgeson Botanical Garden, a part of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension. He can be reached at 907-474-1831 or firstname.lastname@example.org