Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is UC Santa Cruz Going to Abandon it's Arboretum?

It's really not my thing to rant, but this issue got my attention. A rather short sighted budget cutting measure seems to be in the works at UC Santa Cruz. The inside scoop is that the University is quietly gutting the staff of the Arboretum and allowing the collection to literally die away. Here's the scoop from a staffer that was passed on to a Santa Clara County Master Gardener:

1. They have taken away the only state funded salary the arboretum has - that of our executive director Dan Harder. The decision took effect immediately, leaving Dan no time to come up with a fundraising plan to cover his salary. The university expects to enforce this plan immediately.

2. They are pushing Dan to lay-off 5 arboretum staff essentially gutting the arboretum. So far Dan has refused, and is looking to mitigate and compromise for a solution even though at this point the univeristy refuses to.

3. We feel this is a very shortsighted attempt by the university to effectively shut down the arboretum, not recognizing the true value of the arboretum's collections, or understanding what a wonderful resource the arboretum is to the university and the greater community. They are doing it slowly to prevent a community uprising. If staff are laid off, the collections will go unmanaged, enabling the university to say 'if you can't take care of it, then you can't have it'. It would be easier for them politically to slowly shut down the arboretum, rather than shutting it down in one fell swoop - because they know if it was one fell swoop there would be a community uprising, and bad publicity.

Up until now we have essentially internalized our financial difficulties; the situation has become dire and it is now time to get the word out and rally our support base together.

So what can you do? Just get the word out - to anyone and everyone in the community. Tell them what is happening here. Write a letter to Chancellor Blumenthal stating your support for the arboretum and its world class plant collections, dedicated to conservation and research. Currently, a number of faculty are drafting their own letter of support for the arboretum.

This reminds me of the State of California's attempt to shut down the majority of the State Parks. Doesn't the University realize what a valuable asset they have? Are they ready to throw away years worth of work collecting and growing plant specimens, many of them unique to public gardens in America? Do they realize what the expense would be to recreate such a collection? Do they realize the monetary value of the collection?

From the Arboretum web site: "Many of the species in these collections are not otherwise available for study in American botanical gardens and arboreta." and "To date, the Arboretum is the original importer of more than 1,500 different selections of choice ornamentals. Many of these have been and will continue to be the plants of future California gardens."

Are they really ready to throw all of that away....

It really ticks me off that they are trying to be so sneaky. They aren't even giving the arboretum staff nor the public a chance to help.

If this ticks you off as well, you can send your protests to Chancellor Blumenthal through his email at Then you can pass the word on.

Additionally, those of us who are close enough, visit the arboretum and/or join as a member. Not only does it have a wonderful collection of plants, it's also a fabulous place for bird watching, the hummers there are amazing. And don't forget to stop at the gift shop Norrie's and buy a treasure or two, members get a discount. Discounts at a number of local nurseries are also available.

Now I need to get to work and write a scathing email to the chancellor. Then I'm going to send in my membership form.


  1. What a shame! I hope it can be stopped. I'll write an email, too.

  2. I thought it was only my uni that was short sighted and gutless, now I see it is endemic. Very sad.

  3. Oh, that's just so frustrating! I'll let Country Mouse know, she's from SC County. I've actually visited the garden myself and loved it. I'll send an email to the chancellor as well.


  4. It's a very short-sighted decision, and totally unfair that he wasn't given the time to try and come up with a solution :-(

  5. All right, I did send that email, and got a very nice note back. Sounds like they're trying their level best, and the note said emails supporting the arboretum help.

  6. Thanks Michelle for raising our awareness, and thanks Town Mouse for sending me here to have my awareness raised. I've written my letter to the chancellor, and am off to join the arboretum now.

  7. This is getting retweeted a lot on twitter right now (although you have to take into consideration I tweet mostly with other gardeners so not sure how widespread interest is beyond that). Part of what is so upsetting is the sneakiness of the approach.

    We're struggling to figure out how to keep our Contra Costa Master Gardener Program alive in the face of wholesale budget cuts by the county. At least in our case the MG program won't be destroyed, just temporarily sidelined. You can't do that with a plant collection.

  8. Well, this UCSC alum and forever Banana Slug and now LA County Master Gardener thinks this is a horrible idea. They taught us how to make a difference and to "Get Up! Stand Up!" so now it's time for them to see how well we learned ;)!

  9. Wow. This is shocking news. As an UCSC alumni, former nursery worker, & Australian plant enthusiast I am pretty bummed out by this. I will re-tweet, & have e-mailed the Chancellor. Thanks for informing us.

  10. Thank you everyone! Thanks for your comments and interest, thanks for sending emails, and for getting the word out. This is just what the staffer who wrote the note to my MG friend wanted. We can't just let this one quietly slide away...

  11. I'm mailing off my membership form today. Much more satisfying than sending money to the alumni society, for sure.


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