Local parks planning, the USDA's National Arboretum, and the Friends of the National Arboretum
National Arboretum in DC is located on the edge of the city, on the Anacostia River. It's a bit hard to get to without a car, with an entrance off Bladensburg Road NW, not far from New York Avenue not quite one mile from the DC-Maryland border.
It's about 2/3 of a square mile and according to Tom Costello, director of the Friends of the National Arboretum, it's 2% of the city's land mass (part of the third of the city that is federal or campus lands) but provides 7% of the city's carbon capture and is an important "lung" for the city.
While the Arboretum functions as a park, with 500,000 visitors annually, the reality is that its primary function is as a research facility, part of the network of research facilities run by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Many plants and trees that we take for granted have been developed at this facility, which also studies plant diseases.
According to the unit's Strategic Plan, 2013-2017, the National Arboretum is one of the top 10 most visited public gardens in the US, but this reality is somewhat out of sorts with regard to its mission and organizational reporting relationships.
The ARS isn't in the business of funding parks, and as federal budgets have shrunk since the recession and "sequestership," the National Arboretum cut back its hours, closing three days/week.
That is another example of the need for contingency planning as an element of local parks master plans, when a community has parks installations within its borders over which it does not control. Not to mention that the park has 500,000 visitors and there is potential to leverage this visitorship, using garden tourism principles.
-- Garden tourism (2013)
-- Garden Walk Buffalo (2013)
-- European Garden Festivals as a model urban planning initiative
-- DC has a big "Garden Festival" opportunity in the Anacostia River
Back to a full schedule. Recently it was announced that the Arboretum is back to a schedule of being open every day ("US National Arboretum To Re-Open to the Public Seven Days A Week," USDA press release).
The move back to a full schedule has come about because of FONA, which through various fundraising efforts, has committed to paying the $100,000/year that the Arboretum needs to stay open to the public.
Think of it, $100,000! That's not even a rounding error in DC's $10 billion annual budget. But the lack of $100,000 meant that one of the nation's most visited public gardens has for the past few years, been closed three days each week.
If the city had a public parks master plan and if it would include contingency plans for the possibility of the closure of federal installations, then this situation could have been addressed a few years ago.
FONA and fundraising. Thursday through Saturday is the organization's annual Garden Fair and Plant Sale. Sales from the event help to fund the open hours program. Members get exclusive access to sales today, while public hours are Friday and Saturday. Six nurseries will be selling plants, a number of nonprofits will be exhibiting, and some food and other vendors round out the event.
And June 9th is the annual fundraiser, decidedly not black tie, the Great Arboretum Cookout also known as "Cookout Under the Stars." Last year's event had 550 attendees.
Coordinated Garden Tourism as an opportunity for DC. As I mentioned in the Earth Day entry, there is an opportunity to have a spring street festival in the city focused on green and sustainability issues, along with flower and garden elements.
DC already has a major garden tourism event with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which has expanded its activities beyond the traditional cherry blossom walk by the Jefferson Memorial, sponsoring the new Anacostia River Festival, cherry tree plantings throughout the city, etc.
But like the Garden Festival and Garden Walk activities in Buffalo--the organizations are merging this year--the various garden tourism elements in the city, starting with the Cherry Blossom Festival, could be organized into a more purposeful "network" of events and programs throughout the year that are cross- and co-marketed.
-- National Garden Festival in Buffalo, June-August, 2015
Such activity would not only serve visitors, it would build the knowledge base of participating residents and in the long run, contribute positively to the beauty of the city.
I still remember the visual power of these stamps which came out in the late 1960s, associated with the beautification agenda pushed by then First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.
-- Lady Bird Johnson Beautification Program, PBS
-- How the Highway Beautification Act Became a Law, Federal Highway Administration