Task Force Offers Recommendations on Partnership between the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Foundation

The Washington Park Arboretum is a valued resource for education, conservation and recreation in Seattle, and houses a world-class collection of woody plants and trees. As our region confronts the great challenges of the 21stCentury, the Arboretum, along with its partner resources at the Center for Urban Horticulture, will have an even more important role to play in ensuring the health and vitality of our community.

To ensure the Arboretum is positioned to thrive for generations, the University of Washington School of Environment and Forest Sciences (SEFS) and the Arboretum Foundation invited a group of highly respected community members with extensive experience in the management of public/private partnerships, including our partners at Seattle Parks and Recreation, to join a task force charged with making recommendations for changes to the Arboretum’s governance model. The task force met seven times over the course of 2020, and delivered its report to SEFS and the Arboretum Foundation on Oct. 9. Their main findings can be summarized as follows:

  • The current governance model limits the Arboretum’s potential to meet its mission to the community.
  • The primary goal of any changes that might be considered is an increase in equity and public access to the benefits of recreation, conservation, and education.
  • A unified, streamlined, organizational structure would be better suited to meet these needs than the three-party management structure that exists today.
  • An effective nonprofit, building from more than eighty years of experience of the Arboretum Foundation and with the UW and the Seattle Parks Department serving as primary strategic partners, could provide the best framework for this consolidation.
  • The details of any future organizational structure would need to be examined through both a study of feasibility and a process of stakeholder engagement.

“This report is just one step in what we expect will be an on-going and productive conversation to help us better steward these resources,” said Dan Brown, SEFS director.

The task force’s recommendations are advisory and no action has been taken on them. These recommendations have not changed positions or employment for current employees or volunteers. Before any decisions are made by the University of Washington, the Arboretum Foundation, or Seattle Parks and Recreation, a feasibility study and examination of the financial, regulatory, and operational implications, and the resulting community benefits from the recommendations in the report will be reviewed.

Ensuring equitable access is front and center in our conversations on the future of the Arboretum. “The Washington Park Arboretum is one of the crown jewels in Seattle’s park system. We are hopeful that working with our key partners on a sustainable future for this public park space now – will ensure public access for generations to come,” said Christopher Williams, Deputy Superintendent of Parks and Recreation.

“In the coming months, we’ll provide ample opportunity for input and feedback as we dream about the future of the Arboretum and assess the feasibility of these recommendations,” said Jason Morse, vice president of the Arboretum Foundation. “In the meantime, you are welcome to reach out to us.”

Provide any input on your vision for the future of Washington Park Arboretum and/or the Center for Urban Horticulture, or about your hopes for the next steps in this process, here: https://forms.gle/RPrbC3KzU6DQm2Hg9.

UWBG Task Force Documents

Task Force Recommendations Report

Task Force Recommendations Report PowerPoint Presentation

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