On Thursday, April 14, I had the pleasure of re-visiting the Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, Ohio, with curator Ken Cochran as my guide.
The arboretum is a 103-year-old display of diverse flowers, shrubs and trees on Ohio State University’s OARDC campus.
It was the first time I had visited since mid-September, when a massive tornado wiped out more than 1,200 trees and caused severe damage to several of the research buildings.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The last time I was there with Ken, he was in tears. It was the day after the storm and the overturned trees and debris were still scattered everywhere.
But what a difference a few months have made!
The place is not the same as before — there’s no way you can replace trees and landscaping that predate the arboretum in that amount of time.
But Ken and his team are determined to work with what they have, and make visiting this place “a new and different experience.”
It certainly wasn’t how he planned it, but Ken had already been thinking of ways to open parts of the arboretum to the public that had become too dense and overgrown to access.
As a result of the storm, he’s using open spaces as one of the highlights — especially in the valley region nearest U.S. Route 250. As some of the grass and low-growth plants begin to establish, the area will soon support a new host of activities and additional walking space for the public.
Many of the flowering plants have already begun to bloom, and the grass is a good shade of green, quickly growing. Soon, the remaining trees will be full of leaves and the crabapple trees will have bloomed.
He’s putting to use some valuable lumber made from the damaged trees. He jokingly told me if they had intentionally logged the trees, instead of recovering them from a tornado, they would have produced much more useful lumber.
One of the most unfortunate losses — in my opinion — was the campus’ oldest tree — dating back 150 years. It’s the huge stump pictured below, with Ken showing me the rings.
In the distant background, you can see some of the trees that were sheared and some that were leveled.
Ken and I spent a good hour or more walking through the arboretum and talking about all the progress. It was encouraging to see all that is being done, especially now that the property has re-opened to the public.
There clearly are many challenges still ahead, and the gifts the arboretum continues to receive are of paramount importance.
Ken calls it “a process of renewal” — something his staff and volunteers are prepared to conquer.
We’ll have many more pictures and facts online in a week or two, when we print a feature story that covers the progress of the whole OARDC. But I wanted to take a moment, to mention some of the good work already being done.