As the sun comes up on Landis Arboretum, the birds start chirping, woodland creatures start to scurry about, and the people begin to pile in.
“I know the parking lots have been consistently full, more so than any year that I can remember,” said Fred Breglia, the executive director of the George Landis Arboretum.
When most daily routines came to a halt this spring due to COVID-19, Breglia began to notice more and more people coming, not only on the weekends but also in the middle of the week.
“We have a lot of acreages out there and a lot of trails so social distancing at the Arboretum is pretty easy to do. We’ve been seeing an incredible amount of people coming out and enjoying the grounds,” Breglia said.
The Arboretum is home to more than 40 acres of trees, shrubs and perennial plants, along with 14 miles of trails, all of which have been maintained throughout the season.
While the spring and summer months are usually packed with outdoor education programs, workshops and concerts, Landis had to cancel or postpone most of its scheduled programming through the end of June due to COVID-19.
“We had to cancel our plant sale, which is the biggest fundraiser for us and our biggest visitation day of the year. We weren’t sure what was going to happen, Breglia said.
To make up for the loss, they started fundraising online and were surprised by how generous people were.
“The support has been overwhelming and we do not know what we would be doing without that support. So it’s been very much needed,” Breglia said.
Part of the reason people might be donating right now is that more people have been using the space not only for hiking but also as an outdoor art studio, a performance space and an outdoor classroom.
According to Breglia, since schools have switched to distance learning, more families are using Landis as a classroom, including his own family.
“My kid just graduated fourth grade. He just adjusted to everything really well, but there was so much of a learning curve. The science curriculum still had to get done, the phys ed had to get done. So a lot of that we were able to accomplish over at Landis Arboretum,” Breglia said.
They went on hikes to fulfill the physical education requirements and along the way, they would identify trees and animal sounds as part of the science curriculum.
“I’ve seen a lot of other parents doing the same type of thing more so than ever,” Breglia said.
Along with that, several Landis educators, like George Steele, have been running virtual programs through Facebook Live and other platforms.
Earlier this season, Steele went live with the “Animal Tracks and Traces” program, taking people through some of the trails at Landis and showing them how to identify where certain animals have been. On Saturday, June 20, he scheduled a “Summer Solstice Herpetology Hike,” taking viewers on a journey to find resident amphibians.
“The cool thing with doing Facebook Live is that you can save it and then people can come and view it later, which has been a real benefit for the Arboretum because in the past [when] I’d do an Arboretum program, I might have ten people show up. Ten people get to experience it. Now, even though no one’s there in real-time when I did my last Animal Tracks and Traces walk, there were over 900 views. It gives the Arboretum a much wider base,” Steele said.
Beyond education, Landis has been a place where artists and musicians have been journeying to this spring.
“We’ve seen a lot more artists. There was somebody very recently painting in the parking lot. [He] said he had planned to come and take a hike and paint and he got out of the car and he saw some flowering trees right in the parking lot. So he didn’t get too far,” Breglia said.
“We’ve also seen and heard some music being played at the Arboretum, some acoustic guitars, and some people just playing on the hillside. Those are the kind of things that you don’t remember seeing too much [before COVID-19].”
For some, walking on the trails at Landis has been a break from being at home, or a break from the intensity of the news cycle.
“It’s really hectic out there and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world but when you get into those green spaces and those tranquil spots and take part in nature part of that helps to soothe their nerves,” Breglia said.
“People have told me they’ve come to Landis Arboretum from Albany, Saratoga, [etc.] when life’s got them stressed but half an hour walk on the trail ended up being very therapeutic to them and they left in a much more calm space. . . It seems like that’s a trend right now for a lot of people with green spaces, where people are maybe rediscovering with time off of work or school, people [can] reconnect to some of those spaces that were maybe around them for a long time and they just never had time to see.”
The Landis Arboretum is located at 174 Lape Rd, Esperance. Although the buildings are closed, the grounds are open each day from dawn to dusk, free of charge. For more information visit landisarboretum.org.
Pruning Class with Fred Breglia
WHEN: 10-11 a.m. Fri. Jun. 26
WHERE: Facebook Live
MORE INFO: Visit Landis Arboretum on Facebook
Several of Steele’s virtual programs are available at landisarboretum.org, including “Sounds of Spring Night Walk,” “Animal Tracks and Traces” and “Early Morning Bird Walk.”
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Categories: Life & Arts