The dream started over fifty years ago when several members of the Central District of the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs gathered together on a dry and dusty patch of old farm land, tucked between the river and the future Interstate 82, to plan. As they huddled in the wind, they committed to forming a non-profit that would support the creation of an Arboretum. These founders – Rose Druse, Glad Schmidt, Nora Baldwin, Knut Lunnum, Helen Garretson, Phil Jenkins, George Velikanje, Jim Tuttle, and many others, not only embraced this dream but also began the hard work of raising funds and clearing land. They organized fundraisers – from selling 3500 potted trees to creating a garden booklet titled “Did You Know?” The community was also invited to become members of this newly formed Yakima Area Arboretum and memorials were dedicated.
Our Founders also planted trees – the first were native evergreens with the help of the Society of American Foresters and they hired a landscape architect, Robert Wagner, from Spokane, to draw up plans. In the years that followed, hundreds of trees were planted, 32 acres of irrigation line installed, display gardens developed, and the Jewett Interpretive Center built. Educational programs were organized, school field trips conducted, the first Arbor Festival held in 2000, and Nature Day Camp started in 2012. Staff were hired, beginning with the first Executive Director Rita Pilgram in 1989. Today, the Arboretum is a nationally recognized public garden with events and activities serving thousands of people, both young and old throughout Central Washington. And plans are already in the works for the next 50 years. Thank you for continuing to be a part of our history!